8 Women Killed, Over 20 Others Injured in Major Road Accident in South Israel

Bus and truck carrying a tractor collide; bus was carrying Bedouin women who had visited the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

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The scene of the accident, Tuesday February 3, 2015.
The scene of the accident, Tuesday February 3, 2015. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz.

Eight women were killed and over 20 people injured in a major road accident in southern Israel on Tuesday afternoon.

The accident took place when a bus and a truck carrying a tractor passed each other in travelling in opposite directions on Road 31, a two lane road near Lehavim Junction in the Negev.

The driver of the bus carrying the tractor is being questioned by police.

The passengers were suffering from varying degrees of injuries. Some were trapped in the wreckage of the bus and were extracted by firefighting crews. Magen David Adom paramedics and rescue helicopters were called to the scene. All the injured have been evacuated to hospital.

Returning from prayer at Al-Aqsa

The bus was carrying female worshipers who were at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City as part of an Islamic Movement project. The Islamic Movement’s northern branch organizes daily visits of Israel Arab Muslims to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in order to increase Muslim presence at the holy site.

The daily buses depart early in the morning and return in the afternoon. The women killed in the crash were returning to their homes in the northern Negev, where many Bedouin towns and villages are located.

A relative of one of the passengers killed, Ali Abu Shahita, blamed police for the accident for allowing such a large truck to travel on the road. “You killed them,” he screamed at police at the scene. “Who authorized the opening of a road like this? The officer that opened the road killed [the eight women]. Listen well, the truck was too wide for this road, it killed people here. You are all corrupt, you need to go to prison.”

Yoram Halevi, Israel Police’s Southern District commander, said that it is too early to apportion blame for the accident, and promised that a thorough investigation would be launched into the cause of the deadly incident. The driver of the bus carrying the tractor is being questioned by police.

Last October, one person was killed and ten injured in a pile up on Route 40, also near Lahavim Junction, when two trucks and ten private cars collided.

This is a developing story

An aerial view of the deadly Negev road accident, Feb. 3, 2015. (Israel Police)

Scene of the deadly Negev road accident, Feb. 3, 2015. (Eliyahu Hershkovitz)

The bus carrying the women worshippers killed in the deadly accident, Feb. 3, 2015. (Eliyahu Hershkovitz)

(Eliyahu Hershkovitz)

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