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´We call it the street of death´ (JERUSALEM POST) By MELANIE LIDMAN 02/20/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=258491 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Family members and neighbors gathered in a community center-turned mourner’s tent in the Shuafat Refugee camp on Sunday for the last day of the official mourning period following the death of five children and a teacher in a horrific school bus accident on Thursday morning.

The prevailing feeling was anger: anger at the poor state of the roads in the West Bank that contributed to the accident, anger at the Palestinian Red Crescent and Israeli Magen David Adom ambulances for taking so long to respond, and anger at the Israeli authorities for general confusion and lack of access.

Inside the room thick with smoke, neighbors came to pay their respects to a long line of mourning families. The most bitter part of the accident is that this was not the first time the highway was the scene of road fatalities, said the mourners.

“We call it the Street of Death,” said Jihad Abu Zneid, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the Jerusalem/Shuafat region. The accident occurred at the Adam Rotary, a major intersection north of Jerusalem between Highway 60 and Highway 437. “There have been many victims, even just from the Shuafat Refugee Camp,” she said.

The three-lane road has no barrier between oncoming traffic. Muhammed Ali, the neighbor of one of the young victims, said a Jersey barrier in the middle of the road would not just have prevented Thursday’s accident, but a number of fatal accidents on the same road.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad announced Sunday that he planned to set up a committee tasked with investigating the tragic accident. Fayyad gave the committee two weeks to present their findings to the PA prime minister´s office.

The committee will be composed of senior PA officials, including the interior minister, the health minister, the education minister, the local government minister, the public works and housing minister and the chairman of the Palestinian Red Crescent, according to Palestinian Ma´an news agency.

The accident occurred last Thursday when a truck driver smashed his vehicle into a school bus, causing an explosion that ignited the vehicle.

Police suspect the wet road conditions between the Adam checkpoint and Kalandiya caused the truck to swerve into the oncoming traffic, striking the bus head on.

The driver, who is in an Israeli hospital, will be questioned by police after receiving treatment.

Abbas declared a three-day mourning period following the accident, but Palestinian students will return to school on Monday. However, the Nur El Hudna school, the private elementary school where the students on the school bus studied, will remain closed while the PA and Israeli police investigate the accident. The school has been widely denounced for deciding to take the students on an outing in such inclement weather.

Many parents of students at the school are also trying enroll their children in different schools, said Nisreen Alyan, the director of east Jerusalem projects at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. “The parents are saying, ´it is our right for the children to learn in a place that will promise the safety of our kids, especially after all we went through,´” said Alyan.

Nur El Hunda is one of the many private schools in east Jerusalem that sprung up to meet the needs of a population that is growing exponentially faster than the number of classrooms. Despite the law for compulsory education, only about half of east Jerusalem students can get into municipality schools, according to ACRI figures. The rest of the students study at “recognized but not official” schools, which received partial funding from the city, or at private schools. The private schools have no oversight and are run haphazardly, sometimes in rented apartments or private homes, said Alyan. These schools are not subject to the same safety regulations as municipality schools because there is no oversight.

The six victims from the accident, Teacher Ola Julani, 37, and children Marwa Amireh, Lamis Hamdan, Abdallah Hindi, Milad Salama and Zaid Nemer were buried over the weekend. Jpost.com staff contributed to this report (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/20/12)

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