Updated Apr 30, 2021 - World

At least 45 killed in stampede at large Israeli religious festival

Emergency workers gather at the scene after dozens of people were killed and others injured in a stampede in Meron, Israel.
Emergency workers gather at the scene after dozens of people were killed and others injured in a stampede in Meron, Israel.

At least 45 people have been killed and 150 hospitalized in a stampede at a large Jewish festival in northern Israel, the deadliest civilian disaster in the country's history, AP reports.

The latest: President Biden called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday to offer condolences on behalf of the United States for those killed at Lag B'Omer.

What they're saying: "The loss of life among worshipers practicing their faith is heartbreaking," Biden said in a statement.

  • "I have instructed my team to offer our assistance to the government and people of Israel as they respond to the disaster and care for the wounded. We are also working to confirm reports that American citizens may have lost their lives or been wounded during the religious observance of Lag B’Omer."

The big picture: Tens of thousands of people gathered at Mount Meron to observe Lag BaOmer, an Orthodox Jewish holiday honoring Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a 2nd century sage buried there, per AP.

  • The festival was the largest event of its kind held in the country since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which has been significantly curbed by Israel's world-leading vaccine rollout.
  • Netanyahu described the incident as "one of the worst disasters that has befallen the state of Israel" while briefly visiting the site on Friday. He was jeered by protesters that blamed the government and police for failing to prevent the disaster.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details.

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