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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Northern Israel: At Least 45 Crushed to Death at Lag Ba’Omer (...)

Northern Israel: At Least 45 Crushed to Death at Lag Ba’Omer Disaster

Friday 30 April 2021, by siawi3


At Least 45 Crushed to Death at Lag Ba’Omer Disaster in Northern Israel

More than 150 sustained injuries ? Police deflect blame for deadly stampede ? Netanyahu asks to declare Sunday a day of national mourning

Photo: Many are feared dead as tens of thousands flock to Mt. Meron to celebrate Lag Ba’Omer, earlier this eveningCredit: Hatzolah

Noa ShpigelJosh Breiner

Apr. 30, 2021 1:42 AM Updated: Apr. 30, 2021 6:29 AM

At least 45 people were killed and over 150 were injured at the mass Lag Ba’Omer festivities in Mount Meron in northern Israel.

Six of the injured are in critical condition and 18 are in serious condition, according to emergency response teams.

Since the site was so densely attended, search and rescue authorities say they struggled to evacuate trapped people. The stampede was caused after some revelers slipped on steps, causing dozens more people to fall over, according to police sources.

Mobile reception had crashed at Mount Meron as families were searching for missing loved ones.

“Sadly, there are fatalities,” the director of Hatzala’s medical division Avi Marcus said.

Ambulance services arrived at the scene, and began treating dozens of injured revelers, with some patients being resuscitated. Six helicopters arrived to evacuate the injured.

“I had just sat down to eat when I heard the screams; We rushed to help, and then we saw the bodies. At the start it was about 10. Now, there’s many more,” Avi, a witness who helped treat the injured told Haaretz.

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Medics and rescue workers attend to the Lag B’Omer event in Mount Meron, northern Israel, today.Credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS
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Ambulance services working to evacuate the injured
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Rescue services at work after the stampede at Mount Meron

’It was chaos:’ Witnesses recount horror of deadly stampede at Israel’s Mt. Meron

“It happened in a split second; people just fell, trampling each other. It was a disaster,” another witnesses said. Two different witnesses told Haaretz that a police barricade prevented people from exiting and caused overcrowding.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the disaster scene on Friday and asked to declare Sunday a day of national mourning. The prime minister was briefed on the situation on the ground by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai and other officials.

The Mt. Meron disaster is one of the worst that the State of Israel has ever experienced. We are pained over those who have died. Our hearts are with the families as well as with the injured, whom we wish a full recovery, Netanyahu said.

There have been heartbreaking scenes here, people who were crushed to death, including children. A large portion of the dead have still not been identified, and I would ask that rumors not be spread on social media, because this is heartbreaking for the families. Let the authorities do their job, the prime minister said.

I also have to add, that the police and rescue and security services carried out a rapid rescue operation here, and we are very grateful to them. They have prevented an even much larger disaster, Netanyahu stated, adding, We will prepare for a thorough, serious and in-depth investigation to ensure that such a disaster is not repeated. I wish to declare Sunday a day of national mourning. Lets all come join with the families in their grief and pray for the well-being of the injured.

Police evacuated the tens of thousands of people from Mount Meron via the parking lots and several stations after closing the main entrance to the site in order to restrict movement. In response to the disaster, Israel’s train service began operating trains from northern station Carmiel to Tel Aviv to help clear crowds.

Israel Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai arrived at the scene to watch forces. Earlier in the evening, both Shabtai and Public Security Minister Amir Ohana were at Mount Meron to watch security forces prepare for the mass event.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested that rescue authorities bolster their presence at the scene, tweeting that “we are praying for the recovery of the injured.”

On Friday, Netanyahu arrived at the scene in Mount Meron.

President Reuven Rivlin also offered his condolences, as well as Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who tweeted he is closely following developments on this “sad and difficult night.” Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden, also tweeted his condolences, wishing a “full and swift recovery to those injured.”

Tens of thousands of Hassidic Jews participated on Thursday in the annual Lag Ba’omer festivities at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, making it the largest event held in Israel since the coronavirus pandemic broke out last year.

Attendance at the event, located at the foot of Mount Meron and set to continue until midday Friday, was higher than it was last year, when festivities were held under restrictions that were meant to halt the spread of the virus. It was still lower than was the norm before the pandemic, however.

’It couldn’t be prevented’

Senior police figures are deflecting blame for Thursday night’s deadly stampede from Israel Police northern district commander Maj. Gen. Shimon Lavie.

“Imposing the responsibility on Lavie isn’t right, this event was inevitable,” a senior police source told Haaretz.

However, Lavie said that he bears full responsibility for the deadly event.

“I’ll put things on the table, I, Shimon Lavie, the commander of the Israel Police Northern District, bear full responsibility, for better and worse,” he said Friday morning.

“We’ve prepared for all scenarios, we’ve prioritized the issue of public safety without any compromises. I can tell you that at the moment we are collecting evidence to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Police sources told Haaretz that in the days leading up to the event, the site was checked for any safety issues. The sources added that people slipping on the stairs “was out of our [police] control.”

“The event is under investigation, but it’s worth noting that this year, there are fewer people on the mountain than in previous years.”

Lavie was the official authority in charge of the evening’s events, signing off on preparations.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana issued a statement on Friday morning, saying “A terrible disaster happened last night in Meron. It’s clear that an independent investigation is needed, examining all aspects, such as planning, preparation, responsibilities and infrastructure.”

“I’m sending heartfelt condolences to the families and pray for a speedy recovery of the wounded. Rescue teams and security forces are focusing on identifying the victims, notifying families, and making sure people return to their homes,” Ohana added