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Two Kiryat Shmona residents in their 40s were killed and twelve other people were injured early yesterday in a car crash on Highway 77 in the Jezreel Valley. The incident occurred when a car reportedly crossed the center line of the highway and hit an oncoming vehicle carrying actors from the Cameri Theater who were returning from a performance in Tiberias. A third car was also involved in the crash.

The accident killed Kiryat Shmona residents Yoram Weizman, 43, and Mahmoud Hassan, 45. Cameri actress Yelena Yarlova and the driver of the vehicle transporting the actors, Shai Mualem, were both taken to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa in serious condition. The other 10 injured suffered moderate or light injuries and were taken to Rambam Medical Center and Haemek Hospital in Afula.

Weizman was a well-known figure in Kiryat Shmona, who until recently operated a pizza restaurant at a junction south of the town. During the Second Lebanon War, he was among the few business people in the area who insisted on maintaining his regular routine, opening the restaurant every day during the period of Katyusha rocket fire in the area.

Weizman had been divorced and remarried. His first wife died about six months ago and Weizman's 15-year-old son by the first marriage had moved in with Weizman and his second wife.

Mahmoud Hassan was born in a Druze village in the Golan Heights and moved to Kiryat Shmona several years ago, where he opened a law office.

Doctors performed surgery on Yarlova, who was the lead actress in the performance the cast had performed in Tiberias. Her condition was described as serious but stable. Her father, Igor, who is a physician specializing in orthopedics, said he was relieved that his daughter had not been injured in the head or spine.

The Cameri actress' sister, Arma Stifanoff, who is an actress with the Yiddishpiel theater, said: "Theater is Yelena's whole life. There is always a concern on the roads on the way back from performances, but ... you never think it will happen to you."

An initial investigation of the accident indicated that the car in which Weizman and Hassan were traveling crossed into oncoming traffic, hitting the vehicle carrying the Cameri cast. Witnesses indicated the driver of the car was attempting to pass another car at the time. A car traveling behind the Cameri members was also involved after it was struck by the actors' vehicle.

The highway between the Movil junction and the Yishai junction was closed to traffic for an extended period in both directions due to the accident investigation.

That portion of the highway recently underwent road work in which two lanes were added. As a result, however, the road had no shoulders, meaning that in the event of an incident in which a car crosses the center line, vehicles coming from the opposite direction cannot avoid a collision by pulling over to the side.

For most of the portion of the highway where the accident occurred passing is prohibited, however, at the location where the collision took place, passing was permitted.