Jerusalem — At least 45 people were killed and about 150 injured in a crowd accident at a religious festival attended by tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in northern Israel, medical officials said. It was one of the country’s most deadly private disasters.
On Friday, the Israeli Consulate General in New York confirmed that four of the dead were US citizens. “We are working with the families of all the dead and injured to enter Israel as easily and quickly as possible,” it said in a statement.
According to witnesses and video footage, stampede began when a large number of people crushed narrow tunnel-like passageways during the event. According to witnesses, people began to fall over each other near the end of the aisle as they descended the slippery metal stairs.
Avraham Leibe, one of the injured, told Israeli public broadcaster Kan that the crushing of people trying to go down the mountain caused a “general bedlam” on slippery metal slopes, followed by stairs. .. “No one could stop,” he said from the hospital bed. “I saw autumn one after another.”
The video footage showed many people pushed into the tunnel, most of whom were ultra-Orthodox men dressed in black. Initial reports and witnesses said police barricades prevented people from leaving quickly.
Stampede occurred during the Lag BaOmer celebration on Mount Meron, the first large-scale religious rally held legally since Israel lifted almost all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. did. Cases have plummeted in the country since launching one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns at the end of last year.
Lag BaOmer gathers tens of thousands of people each year to honor Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century sage and mystic who is believed to be buried there, most of them super-orthodox. I am a Jew of the sect. Many people traditionally light a bonfire, pray and dance as part of their celebration.
This year, the media estimated the crowd to be around 100,000.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who briefly visited Mount Meron around noon on Friday, expressed his condolences to his family as “one of the worst disasters that hit Israel.” He said Sunday would be a national memorial day.
Netanyahu was ridiculed by dozens of ultra-Orthodox protesters who blamed the government and police for tragedy.
President Joe Biden expressed his condolences with Netanyahu on Friday.
“It is heartbreaking to lose the lives of worshipers practicing faith,” Biden said. “I instructed my team to provide our assistance when the government and Israeli people respond to the disaster and take care of the injured.”
Rabbi Berber Brebda, who witnessed Stampede, accused police of creating barriers that prevented people from leaving exits that were normally open for the past few years.
“Where should I go?” He said. “And the policemen there didn’t really care.”
He is responsible for the death of the government “the beautiful holy Jews killed here for no reason to prove that they are in charge of this place, not the Orthodox Jews.” Said there is.
At least 45 people have died and four are in crisis, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health. Immediately after Stampede, rescue workers collected the bodies, wrapped them in a white cover, and placed them side by side on the ground at the scene.
The body was later taken to the Central Forensic Pathology Institute in Israel for identification.
Among the victims was 38-year-old Erazal Goldberg. His father called on God to protect his children for their son to rest in Jerusalem, AFP reported.
Efforts to identify some of the victims and connect their families with their missing relatives were still underway. From Thursday to Friday night, mobile phone coverage around Mount Meron collapsed for hours and the emergency hotline was overwhelmed by phone.
In the overwhelmingly orthodox city of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, authorities were working with healthcare professionals to connect missing families. “The situation is getting clearer,” city spokesman Kivi Hess told Channel 13TV.
In the fight against time, many funerals were to take place before sunset on Friday, the beginning of the non-burial Jewish Sabbath. Reuven Rivlin, the country’s leading president, lit 45 commemorative candles to honor the dead.
The death toll on Mount Meron exceeded 44 people who died in the 2010 wildfire. It was previously believed to be the most deadly civilian tragedy in the history of the country.
Zaki Heller, a spokesman for the Magen David Adom rescue team, said 150 people were injured in the crowd accident.
“No one dreamed,” Heller told Israeli Army Radio that this could happen. “At one point we moved from a happy event to a terrible tragedy,” he said.
The Ministry of Justice said the police’s internal investigation department has begun investigating possible criminal acts by police officers.
The deadly crowd accident also sparked political repercussions during the decisive post-election period of great uncertainty, the fourth in two years.
Netanyahu has failed to form a coalition government so far, and his time for it will run out early next week. His political rivals, including former allies devoted to ending his 12-year rule, will have the opportunity to try to unite the alliance from the patchwork of leftist, centrist and hawkish parties.
Netanyahu needs the continued support of his longtime ally, the ultra-Orthodox party, if he wants to retain the faint hope of maintaining power.
Israeli media reported earlier this month that Netanyahu had assured ultra-Orthodox politicians at a conference that Lag BaOmer’s celebration would take place with almost no restrictions.
The decision was reportedly backed by ministers and police, despite opposition from health officials who warned of the risk of a new coronavirus infection.
Last year, due to a pandemic, events on Mount Meron were restricted.
At the beginning of this year’s celebration, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, police chief Yaakov Shabtai and other senior officials visited the event to meet with police who had deployed an additional 5,000 troops to maintain order.
Condolences were expressed by foreign leaders and diplomats. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter: “I’m thinking of the people of Israel and those who lost their loved ones in this tragedy.”
The European Union “congratulated the victims’ families and friends” and wanted a quick recovery of the injured. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country was on the side of Israel after “horrible news from Mount Meron.”
Dozens of people, including four Americans, were killed in a crowd at the Jewish Religious Festival in Israel
Source link Dozens of people, including four Americans, were killed in a crowd at the Jewish Religious Festival in Israel