Eight mourning tents were set up overnight in the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev, as preparations began for the funerals of the eight women killed on Tuesday afternoon in a road accident north of Be’er Sheva that also injured 20 people.
The accident occurred when the bus, which was transporting the women, and a truck carrying two tractors sideswiped one another on Route 31 near the Lehavim Junction, a stretch of highway that has been the site of numerous fatal accidents. The women were returning from prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
Blood samples were taken from a number of relatives on Tuesday evening to help identify the bodies. All but one of the injured passengers have been released from Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.
Despite the relatively mild injuries, mostly from broken glass and bruises, many of those on the bus described serious trauma after seeing their friends and relatives, who were left behind on the bus. Fatma Abu al-Kian, whose aunt was killed in the accident, said: “My legs froze when the bus stopped. I wanted to flee but I couldn’t move from the shock. I didn’t sleep at night, it was very difficult for me. These are friends that I know for years, close family too. We were only 10 minutes from home and then it happened. I don’t know how you can get over something like this.”
The deputy head of the Hura local council, Kaid Salman Abu al-Kian, told Haaretz that he and the town residents are waiting for the results of the police investigation, and that someone must pay the price for the negligence. “We were told the truck driver has a rich criminal history and traffic violations,” he said.
“This is a very difficult morning in Hura; a great sadness has fallen over us,” added Abu al-Kian, who lost several relatives in the accident.
“We lost wonderful mothers. Two are my close relatives and the rest we know as local residents. We know every one. It is a shame that people are killed in such a fashion because of negligence on the road. Someone must be punished.”
The husband of one of the women killed told of how when he heard of the accident, he already knew he had lost his wife. “We have nine children — they don’t deserve this, to grow up orphans. The pain is so incredible that we have no comfort.”
The funerals were held at 3 P.M. on Wednesday and attend by 2,500 people. Five of the victims were buried in one cemetery in the area of the local council, and the other three in a second cemetery. The police held a meeting in the morning to prepare for the funerals, including closing of roads for the funeral processions.
The driver of the truck carrying the tractors was arrested, as was bus driver who was questioned by police and released to five days of house arrest.
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.