Hundreds injured in stampede at big Israeli religious festival

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More than 100 people were injured, dozens critically, in a stampede at a Jewish religious gathering in northern Israel attended by tens of thousands of people, Israel’s main rescue service said early Friday (local time).

Magen David Adom tweeted that it was treating 103 people, including 38 in critical condition. Israeli media had earlier reported that a grandstand collapsed, but the rescue service said all the injuries happened in a stampede.

Israeli media reported that at least 38 people were killed.

The Israeli military said it had dispatched medics and search and rescue teams along with helicopters to assist with a “mass casualty incident” in the area. It did not provide details on the nature of the disaster.

The incident happened late at night and there were conflicting reports on whether a grandstand did fall.

Tens of thousands of people had gathered at the foot of Mount Meron to celebrate Lag BaOmer, a Jewish holiday honoring Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century sage and mystic who is buried there.

It was the first huge religious gathering of its kind to be held legally since Israel lifted nearly all restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The country has seen cases plummet since launching one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns late last year.

Health authorities had nevertheless warned against holding such a large gathering.

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