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A Stampede At A Religious Festival In Israel Killed 45 People, Including Children, And Left Dozens Injured

45 people, including several children, have been killed and dozens injured in a stampede that occurred at a religious ceremony at Mount Meron in northern Israel on Friday morning. 

The reason for the stampede is still unclear. Every year, the believers, Ultra-Orthodox Jews, pilgrimage to the tomb of an ancient rabbi on the mountainside of Mount Meron to receive the rabbi’s blessing.

Glasses of Orthodox Jews left on a side walk as Orthodox Jews search for items left on the floor after dozens were killed in crush at a religious festival in Mount Meron, Israel.
Glasses of Orthodox Jews left on a side walk as Orthodox Jews search for items left on the floor after dozens were killed in crush at a religious festival in Mount Meron, Israel. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

The festival this year, which was attended by an estimated 100,000 people, was the first legal mass religious gathering after the government lifted  COVID-19 restrictions with the infection rate in the country decreasing and about 56 percent of the population completely vaccinated.

Israeli rescue workers and security officials hold bags filled with personal items at the Jewish Orthodox pilgrimage site of Mount Meron, where dozens of worshippers were killed in a stampede during the Jewish religious festival of Lag Ba'Omer in northern Israel.
Israeli rescue workers and security officials hold bags filled with personal items at the Jewish Orthodox pilgrimage site of Mount Meron, where dozens of worshippers were killed in a stampede during the Jewish religious festival of Lag Ba’Omer in northern Israel. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The stampede happened abruptly, and the narrow passageway turned into a dead end. “It happened in a split second; people just fell, trampling each other. It was a disaster,” one witness told the Haaretz newspaper.

Medical teams arrive at the scene after a stampede at a Jewish religious festival in northern Israel.
Medical teams arrive at the scene after a stampede at a Jewish religious festival in northern Israel. (Photo by United Hatzalah / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Witnesses described a desperate avalanche, with people being piled on top of each other in a narrow passageway and thousands of people trapped in the crush.

Mourners gather during the funeral of one of those who died in a stampede during the Jewish religious festival of Lag Ba'Omer at the Jewish Orthodox pilgrimage site of Mount Meron.
Mourners gather during the funeral of one of those who died in a stampede during the Jewish religious festival of Lag Ba’Omer at the Jewish Orthodox pilgrimage site of Mount Meron. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

“For some reason there was sudden pressure at this point and people stopped, but more people kept coming down. People were not breathing. I remember hundreds of people screaming ’I can’t breathe.’” another attendee told Israeli news outlet Ynet from his hospital bed. 

Videos showed rescue workers struggling to tear down metal barriers to reach victims.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Jewish Orthodox pilgrimage site of Mount Meron, where dozens of worshippers were killed in a stampede during the Jewish religious festival of Lag Ba'Omer in northern Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Jewish Orthodox pilgrimage site of Mount Meron, where dozens of worshippers were killed in a stampede during the Jewish religious festival of Lag Ba’Omer in northern Israel early on Friday. (Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident “one of the worst disasters to hit the state of Israel,” and he guaranteed a thorough investigation. 

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