- Advertisement -
AppsEntertainmentDozens killed in stampede at religious gathering in Israel

Dozens killed in stampede at religious gathering in Israel

-

- Advertisment -spot_img

JERUSALEM — A stampede broke out early Friday at a Jewish religious festival attended by tens of thousands of people in northern Israel, killing nearly 44 people and leaving some 150 hospitalized, medical officials said.

The stampede, one of the deadliest civilian disasters in Israeli history, occurred during the celebrations of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron. Tens of thousands of people, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, gather each year to honor Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century sage and mystic who is buried there. Large crowds traditionally light bonfires, pray and dance as part of the celebrations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “great tragedy,” and said everyone was praying for the victims.

Media estimated the crowd at about 100,000 people.

Eli Beer, director of the Hatzalah rescue service, said he was horrified by how crowded the event was, saying the site was equipped to handle perhaps a quarter of the number who were there.

“Close to 40 people died as a result of this tragedy,” he told the station.

The incident happened after midnight, and the cause of the stampede was not immediately clear. Videos circulating on social media showed large numbers of ultra-Orthodox Jews packed together in tight spaces.

A 24-year-old witness, identified only by his first name Dvir, told the Army Radio station that “masses of people were pushed into the same corner and a vortex was created.” He said a first row of people fell down, and then a second row, where he was standing, also began to fall down from the pressure of the stampede.

“I felt like I was about to die,” he said.

Zaki Heller, spokesman for the Magen David Adom rescue service, said 150 people had been hospitalized, several dozen in serious or critical condition. Army Radio, citing anonymous medical officials, said the death toll had risen to 44.

That would match the death toll of a 2010 forest fire, which is believed to be the deadliest civilian tragedy in the country’s history.

Heller told the station “no one had ever dreamed” something like this could happen. “In one moment, we went from a happy event to an immense tragedy,” he said.

Photos from the scene showed rows of wrapped bodies.

The Israeli military said it had dispatched medics and search and rescue teams along with helicopters to assist with a “mass casualty incident” in the area. It did not provide details on the nature of the disaster.

It was the first huge religious gathering to be held legally since Israel lifted nearly all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The country has seen cases plummet since launching one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns late last year.

Health authorities had nevertheless warned against holding such a large gathering.

But when the celebrations started, the Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, police chief Yaakov Shabtai and other top officials visited the event and met with police, who had deployed 5,000 extra forces to maintain order.

Ohana, a close ally of Netanyahu, thanked police for their hard work and dedication “for protecting the well-being and security for the many participants” as he wished the country a happy holiday.

Netanyahu is struggling to form a governing coalition ahead of a Tuesday deadline, and the national tragedy is sure to complicate those efforts.


LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest news

Opinion | If you want a world where our sons and daughters are equal, stop doing all the housework

Some — usually straight — women I know turn themselves inside out to set a feminist agenda for...

As vaccinations drop, outreach workers hit the streets to change minds

DETROIT — Tanika Knighton knows how devastating Covid-19 can be: Her 62-year-old father died of the disease last...

Payment tech company Marqeta files for IPO as value tops $16 billion on private markets

Marqeta Headquarters in Oakland, Calif.Yalonda M. James | San Francisco Chronicle | Hearst Newspapers via Getty ImagesMarqeta has...

After CDC change, Walmart says employees, customers can ditch masks

Masks will no longer be required for fully vaccinated Walmart employees or customers starting Tuesday, the retailer said...
- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

Earnings reports and the Fed will test the market rally in the week ahead

Investors will see whether stocks carry their newfound momentum into the week ahead, as major retailers, including Walmart...

Deadly violence intensifies in Gaza Strip and Israel as Biden urges de-escalation

President Joe Biden pauses while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S.,...

Must read

- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you