'Disastrous' crush at Israeli bonfire festival, 15 reported killed

Ultra-Orthodox Jews gather around a bonfire in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood in Jerusalem.
PHOTO: Reuters

JERUSALEM - Around 15 people were killed in a crush at a religious bonfire festival in Israel on Friday (April 30), the top-rated Channel 12 TV news said, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a "heavy disaster".

Medics confirmed that dozens of people had been hurt at the Lag B'Omer event in northern Mount Meron, where tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews were gathered at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage for annual commemorations that include all-night prayer and dance.

The Magen David Adom ambulance service said around 20 people had life-threatening injuries.

On Twitter, Mr Netanyahu called it a "heavy disaster" and added: "We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties."

The gathering had been held in defiance of health officials who had worries that crowding could pose a Covid-19 risk.

Police said on Thursday that they had arrested two people for disrupting officers' efforts to keep order at the site.