The Israeli prime minister calls for a day of mourning on Sunday as he announces an investigation into the stampede that killed 44 people.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a full investigation into the deadly stampede at a Jewish religious holiday in the town of Mount Meron, where he was booed by close protesters of the victims.
According to Israeli media, protesters threw empty bottles and shouted insults at Netanyahu, who visited the pilgrimage site in the north of the country, where at least 44 people died and 150 others were injured in the scramble during the Lag BaOmer celebrations.
Netanyahu, who described it as one of the “worst” disasters in Israel’s history, announced Sunday as a “national day of mourning” and expressed sympathy to the families of the victims. He also met with police and others involved in the rescue efforts.
Meanwhile, President Reuven Rivlin’s office called on those looking for still missing to contact the presidential office. “We will do our best to find them,” he said.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein visited some of the injured at Ziv Medical Center in Safed, northern Israel on Friday morning.
Edelstein said almost all of the victims have been identified, Israeli media reported.
The incident took place when large numbers of people trying to exit the site crowded into a narrow tunnel-shaped passage, witnesses said. People began to fall on top of each other near the end of the walkway as they descended slippery metal stairs, witnesses said.
Authorities had allowed 10,000 people to gather at the site of the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, but organizers said more than 650 buses were chartered across the country, bringing at least 30,000 pilgrims to Mount Meron.
Eli Beer, director of the Hatzalah Rescue Service, said he was horrified by the density of the event, saying the site was equipped to handle perhaps a quarter of the number of people present, he said. declared on army radio.
About 5,000 police officers had been deployed to secure the event, the largest public gathering in the country during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ecstatic crowds have gathered despite warnings from health officials to avoid posing risks of COVID-19.