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Saturday, 24 July 2021

Israel orders inquiry into Mount Meron deadly stampede

Israel's chief auditor, the state comptroller, announced a few days after the tragedy the opening of an investigation, but the results have not been released

AFP , Sunday 20 Jun 2021
Israel
FILE PHOTO:Medics and rescue workers attend to the Lag B'Omer event in Mount Meron, northern Israel, where fatalities were reported among the thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance, at Mount Meron, Israel . REUTERS
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Israel's new government ordered Sunday a commission of inquiry into the "awful disaster" of 45 Jewish pilgrims crushed to death at Mount Meron in April.

Setting up the inquiry was an electoral promise of several parties in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who unseated veteran premier Benjamin Netanyahu last week.

"The responsibility for learning the lessons and preventing the next disaster is on our shoulders," Bennett said Sunday, at his first cabinet meeting.

"A commission cannot bring back those who have perished, but the government can do everything to prevent unnecessary loss of life in the future."

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had packed a site at Mount Meron in northern Israel on April 30 at an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of reputed second century rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

The stampede in the male section of the gender-divided site is believed to have started as people moved through a narrow passageway that became a deadly choke-point.

At least 16 children and teens were among the 45 dead.

A day of national mourning was declared following the tragedy, but the previous government did not establish a commission of inquiry as ultra-Orthodox parties , allies of Netanyahu  opposed it.

Those parties are not part of the new coalition government.

Israel's chief auditor, the state comptroller, announced a few days after the tragedy the opening of an investigation, but the results have not been released.

The commission of inquiry, headed by a judge, will have a budget of six million shekels ($1.8 million), the government said.

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