Tens of thousands of pilgrims were gathered in Meron at the site of the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews mark the Lag BaOmer holiday when the disaster occurred.
Broken glasses are seen at the site where fatalities were reported, Meron, Israel, April 30, 2021.
Closed last year due to coronavirus restrictions, this year's pilgrimage at which bonfires are lit was expected to be a celebratory event in a nation that has largely reopened thanks to a successful vaccination campaign.
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbi lights up a bonfire, Meron, Israel, April 29, 2021.
But a witness blamed the police. "There is an iron ramp going down from the site of a bonfire... It was very crowded... people had to walk down on this ramp in order to exit," said Shmuel, an 18-year-old at the scene. The police "closed it (the ramp). Then, more people arrived, and more and more... and police wouldn't let them exit, so people started to fall on top of each other," he said.
A source at the northern Ziv hospital, one of several receiving casualties, told AFP it had recorded at least six deaths, taking the overall toll to 44.
The rescue service said it was treating 150 injured, six of them in serious condition.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews look at the scene where fatalities were reported, Meron, Israel, April 30, 2021.
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