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Condolences pour in after deadly crash

Feb. 16, 2012 8:04 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 18, 2012 9:47 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Condolences poured in from near and far Thursday, as Palestinians mourned the deaths of at least five children in a fiery accident south of Ramallah.

Some 39 others were injured in addition to the five children and their teacher who perished when a school bus and truck collided on a field trip, Palestinian medical officials said.

Israeli leaders were among the first to extend condolences; President Shimon Peres phoned his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas to express sorrow, Israeli media reported.

"Israel will provide the victims with any medical aid necessary," he was quoted as saying.

In Cyprus, Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying the prime minister "offers his condolences for the death of the teacher and students in the accident north of Jerusalem today."

The premier "is ready to provide the Palestinian Authority with any aid that may be required."

The US Consulate in Jerusalem, meanwhile, said it "joins the Palestinian people in mourning the victims of the tragic bus accident near Jaba this morning.

"Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families of the victims and we pray for the speedy recovery of the injured children," a post on the consulate's Facebook page said.

Filippo Grandi, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, the UN's Palestine refugee agency, said in a statement he was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy near Qalandia.

"There is nothing more appalling to us and our communities than the needless deaths and suffering of innocent children. My condolences go out to the families and friends of the victims at this terrible time."

The UN's envoy in Jerusalem also expressed "sorrow" in a letter to President Abbas.

"I'm writing to express my deep sorrow about the shocking news of the death of at least eight children today in an accident near Ramallah," Robert Serry wrote.

"On behalf of all the UN employees in the Palestinian territories, I send our heartfelt condolences to the victims' families and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured.

"My heart and the hearts of our employees who work for the Palestinian people are with you in this tragic time. The death and injury of many is a pain felt by all Palestinians, and I join your people in mourning".
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