Israel mourns the death of 45 people following stampede during religious festival

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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced a full investigation into the stampede at a Jewish religious festival in northern Israel that left dozens dead.

Sunday will be a national day of mourning after 45 people were killed and 150 injured in a stampede at a religious festival on Friday.

First responders said the stampede was triggered by a number of people falling on top of each other near the end of a narrow walkway.

Medical teams worked on Friday to identify 45 people crushed to death in a stampede at a religious festival on the slopes of Israel’s Mount Meron, with children among the dead.

Witnesses spoke of seeing a “pyramid” of people who were asphyxiated or trampled in a passageway around 3 metres (10 feet) wide at the crowded event in the Galilee.

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had thronged to the tomb of 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai for the annual Lag B’Omer commemorations that include all-night prayer, mystical songs and dance. 

By late afternoon, the Health Ministry said 32 of the dead had been identified. As sunset neared on Friday the process was halted for 24 hours in observance of the Jewish Sabbath, and would resume on Saturday evening.

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