44 killed in stampede at Jewish festival in Israel
People celebrating the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer on Mount Meron, Israel, April 29, 2021. At least 44 people were killed and more than a hundred injured in a stampede after midnight Thursday at the festival that was attended by tens of thousands of people. David Cohen/JINI via Xinhua/IANS

44 killed in stampede at Jewish festival in Israel

Dubai, April 30, 2021

At least 44 people were killed and more than 150 others injured in a stampede late on Thursday night at an Israeli festival that was attended by tens of thousands of people, local media reports said.

The stampede occurred during the Mount Meron religious bonfire-lighting ceremony for the holiday of Lag Ba'omer.

The Jerusalem Post said rescue operations were underway to evacuate thousands of people stranded at the scene of the tragedy.

The Transportation Ministry sent over 300 empty buses to rescue the worshippers, but they are stuck in traffic due to the lack of police management of the event, the newspaper said, quoting N12.

According to the report, tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had thronged to the Mount Meron tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for annual Lag Baomer commemorations that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance.

The newspaper said six of the injured were in a critical condition and 18 others in a serious condition.

"A field hospital was set up at the scene. Israel Police and IDF soldiers worked to evacuate the injured and clear the crowds from the scene. Phone service at the scene crashed as thousands attempted to contact family members and emergency services," the report said.

Israel Police have launched an investigation to establish the cause of the stampede.

The report quoted witnesses as saying that people were asphyxiated or trampled in a passageway, some going unnoticed until the PA system sounded an appeal to disperse.

The crowds at the festival were the largest public gathering in Israel since the country started lifting COVID-19 restrictions some weeks ago. The annual celebration was closed last year due to the coronavirus restrictions.

Thousands of Israel Police and Border Police officers were deployed in the area to maintain order and ensure the safety of visitors to the site.

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