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Forty-four killed, 103 injured in stampede at Israeli religious festival

At least 44 people were killed and 103 injured on Thursday night when a stampede broke out at a religious bonfire festival attended by tens of thousands people in northern Israel.

According to local media reports, the tragedy occurred in Mount Meron during the festival celebration on the eve of the Jewish holiday Lag BaOmer.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had thronged the Mount Meron tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for annual Lag Baomer commemorations that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance. Most of the dead were said to be from the Toldot Aharon hassidic sect, based in Jerusalem, The Jerusalem Post reported.

It was the first massive public event in Israel after the coronavirus-linked restrictions had been softened.

Magen David Adom, the emergency medical service, said injured were rushed to four hospitals in northern Israel and Jerusalem. Helicopters were also used in the rescue operation.

Army and emergency-service officials have set up a field hospital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident ‘a terrible disaster’.

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