At least 4 U.S. citizens among the dead in Israeli stampede

JERUSALEM — At least 4 U.S. citizens had been among these dead after a stampede on the slopes of Israel’s Mount Meron, a spokesman for the nation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated Saturday, as funeral preparations started.

Lior Haiat informed NBC News the ministry was helping American households attempting to fly into the nation.

“There are four families that are in the New York area that we are in touch with, and the consulate in New York is helping them,” Haiat stated. “There are two other families from Canada and one from Argentina and we’re also in touch with their families,” he added.

At least 45 folks died and greater than 100 had been injured in the stampede at round 1 a.m. native time Friday (8 p.m. ET Thursday) that occurred throughout celebrations of Lag BaOmer at Mount Meron in northern Israel, by the tomb of an historic Jewish mystic, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Israeli safety officers and rescuers stand round the our bodies of victims who died throughout Lag BaOmer celebrations at Mount Meron in northern Israel on Friday.Ishay Jerusalemite / AP

Each yr, tens of hundreds of individuals — principally ultra-Orthodox Jews — throng to the space to have fun the rabbi and lightweight bonfires as a part of the celebrations. The occasion was the first mass non secular gathering to be held legally since Israel lifted almost all restrictions associated to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J. tweeted Friday that one among his constituents, Donny Morris, had died in the crush.

Rabbi Yechiel Morris, his uncle, confirmed his loss of life to a number of media outlets, telling them the 19-year-old had been endeavor research in Israel. NBC News couldn’t independently confirm these stories and has reached out to his household.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Israel stated Saturday that it was “working with local authorities to verify whether any additional U.S. citizens were affected and is providing all possible consular support to affected U.S. citizens and their loved ones.”

Israel’s Health Ministry informed Reuters 32 of the dead had been recognized to this point by late Friday, however Haiat stated observance of the Jewish Sabbath, a day of relaxation, had paused this course of till after sundown Saturday night. Many of the funerals are additionally anticipated to happen after that point, in conserving with non secular practices.

He stated the names of the Americans who died had not been confirmed however identification was prone to be lastly accomplished by Sunday.

It is unclear what triggered the stampede, however video footage confirmed folks being pulled backwards and forwards by the sheer momentum of the tightly packed crowd. Other photos of the occasion confirmed a mass of individuals, principally males clad in black, spilling down a slim open-air passage.

U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday and supplied U.S. help.

“The United States stands with the people of Israel, and with Jewish communities the world over, in mourning the terrible tragedy at Mount Meron,” Biden stated in an announcement. “The loss of life among worshipers practicing their faith is heartbreaking.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed two Canadians had been among those that died and stated he felt “shock and sadness” in an announcement Friday. Other world leaders together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, additionally supplied their condolences.

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After visiting the scene Friday, Netanyahu stated it was “one of the worst disasters to hit the state of Israel.”

“We will carry out a thorough, serious and in-depth investigation in order to ensure that such a disaster does not recur,” he stated, earlier than declaring a nationwide day of mourning on Sunday.

However, indignant crowds appeared to jeer and boo at Netanyahu throughout his go to, in movies posted on social media, as many lay blame along with his authorities and the police for the catastrophe.

Lawahez Jabari reported from Jerusalem and Adela Suliman from London.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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