Palestinian pupils killed in West Bank school bus crash

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Media captionBBC's Jon Donnison: "A Palestinian police official said the children were as young as five and six years old"

At least eight Palestinian children and a teacher have been killed in a collision between a school bus and a lorry in the West Bank.

The bus was carrying children as young as four on their way to Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.

The vehicle overturned on impact and burst into flames. More than 30 children were injured, and there are fears the death toll may rise.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of mourning.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed his sorrow and offered assistance.

'National disaster'

The bus is believed to have been carrying up to 50 children at the time of the crash, which happened on a busy road junction.

In a broadcast, Mr Abbas described the accident as a horrific national disaster and said all flags would fly at half-mast.

He said many injured were still receiving treatment at medical facilities around the West Bank.

The lorry driver, an Israeli-Arab, was injured.

Dr Ahmad Bitawi, director of Ramallah Hospital, said five children and a teacher had been pronounced dead at the hospital, while a further 54 people injured in the crash were treated there, Reuters news agency reported.

Some of the survivors were also taken to Jerusalem's Hadassah University Hospital.

"It is an ugly, unbelievable, terrible accident; it shakes the feelings of the whole world because it includes babies," Adham Al-Hindin, uncle of two injured children, told Reuters.

Treacherous conditions

Palestinian police spokesman Yousif Osrael said the children had left Ramallah on a school trip but returned because of heavy rain and stormy weather, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Osrael said the dead children were aged between four and six.

The BBC's Jon Donnison in Jerusalem says the roads in the area have been pretty treacherous following the rain.

It was one of the most serious road accidents involving Palestinians in a long time, our correspondent adds.

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Shalom Galil - an Israeli medical worker at the scene - said the bad weather appeared to have been a factor.

He said the steep road where the crash happened had been affected by oil.

"We assume that either the bus or the truck slipped and crashed into each other," he said.

Mr Galil said Israeli and Palestinian emergency services had worked closely together at the scene.

"Palestinian firefighters were involved. As far as I could see, there was full co-operation between the firefighters of Judea and Samaria [West Bank] and the Palestinian firefighters."

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld has said there was no suspicion of foul play.

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