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Crush at Israeli religious festival kills 44

An overcrowded religious festival in Israel saw at least 45 people be crushed to death overnight. Tens of thousands of Orthodox Jews thronged to the Galilee tomb of the 2nd-century Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for Lag B’Omer. The festival includes all-night prayer, mystical songs, and dance. Many of the people who were crushed to death were caught in a 3 meters wide passageway after Mount Meron’s slopes were packed in defiance of warnings to social distance.

There had been a stampede in the men’s section of the festival and casualties included children but many of the dead have not been identified yet. The stampede occurred when the front row of people in the crowd collapsed and people were piling on top of one another. There had been concerns about safety risks at the annual festival for years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it one of the heaviest disasters in Israel’s history.

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