Victims of Sinai Bus Crash Claim It Was Terrorism
The Israeli Arab families said that the driver harshly criticized them for being citizens of Israel and for cooperating with Jews.
Israel National News
45 Israeli-Arab families from the Galilee submitted a request to the National Insurance Institute (NII) on Monday asking to be recognized as victims of terrorism. The families were all involved in a bus crash in the Sinai Peninsula last year in which 11 people were killed and dozens were wounded. The families claim that their bus driver deliberately crashed in an act of anti-Israeli terrorism.
In their request, the families said that as the driver took them towards Israel on August 22, 2006, he began harshly criticizing them for being Israeli citizens and for cooperating with Jews. The driver called them “trash of the Jews,” they said, and warned that the ride would be their final journey. Survivors claimed to have seen a vehicle waiting near the scene of the crash spirit the hostile driver away immediately thereafter.
An Egyptian court later sentenced the bus driver to one year in prison. In reaction to the news of the sentencing, in September 2006, families of those killed in the crash held a spirited demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv. Demonstrators called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the people of Egypt “cowards,” and characterized the government there as “terrorist.” One bereaved mother told the press that the Egyptians should “learn from Israel about human rights.”
The Israeli-Arab tourists from Nazareth were traveling in one of four buses in a convoy on a tour organized by a Galilee group. The buses were returning to Israel from a trip to the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh at the time of the crash. Their driver and two tour guides were Egyptian citizens.
Many of the crash victims have argued for months that the crash was a planned act of terrorism. They are now pressing the NII in order to receive compensation as victims of terrorism. In 2006, the NII paid a total of NIS 360 million to terror victims and their families.
Director of Almagor Terror Victims Association Meir Indor noted that only the General Security Services (Shabak) and Israeli police can investigate and determine if this incident was a terrorist attack. Indor charged that otherwise, it could be that a few lawyers who want to cash in on Israel’s public coffers started this initiative and are basing it on the claim that the bus driver shouted at the bus passengers. “If a speeding bus driver who shouted at his passengers has a wreck, does that make this a terror attack and obligate the Israeli tax payers to pay for the damages,” asked Indor.
At the time of the incident, Egyptian authorities refused to allow Israeli first responders into the Sinai to provide assistance. The Egyptians behaved similarly in April 2006, after three explosions ripped through the Red Sea resort town of Dahab, in a massive terror attack by Al-Qaeda linked terrorists. 24 people were killed in that attack and dozens were injured. In October 2004, at least 33 people, 13 of them Israelis, were killed and well over 100 were wounded in three attacks on two Red Sea holiday resorts packed with Israeli tourists.