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Israel’s Netanyahu booed by protesters at stampede site

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) visits the site of an overnight stampede during a religious gathering in the town of Meron, in the occupied Palestinian territories, on April 30, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been booed by protesters at the site of a stampede in the north of the occupied Palestinian territories, which left at least 45 people dead and 150 others injured.

Protesting relatives of the victims hurled empty bottles and shouted insults at Netanyahu on Friday as he visited the scene of the deadly crush, which occurred during the annual Lag B'Omer Jewish festival at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a religious figure, in the town of Meron.

Tens of thousands were attending the religious event at Mount Meron earlier in the day when a section of the stadium seating reportedly collapsed, and many were killed as a result of asphyxiation. Others were killed being trampled upon during the stampede.

A makeshift hospital is reportedly being set up in the area to address the situation. A number of those injured are in critical condition.

Netanyahu called the incident "a terrible disaster" and announced an investigation.

A number of people are also reportedly missing.

Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, who visited some of the injured at Ziv Medical Center in the city of Safed, urged people not to rush to place blame for the incident.

According to witnesses, the incident took place when large numbers of people trying to exit the site thronged a narrow tunnel-like passage.

People began falling on each other near the end of the walkway, as they descended on slippery metal stairs, they said.

Footage recorded before the crush showed the thousands-strong participants jumping on stands at what one media outlet called a "makeshift arena."

About 5,000 police had been deployed to secure the event, the largest Israeli gathering during the coronavirus pandemic.

The event was held without any regard for standing health precautions against the spread of the new coronavirus, including respect for social distancing rules and prohibition of mass gatherings.

Pictures provided both during the celebration and in the immediate aftermath of the stampede, meanwhile, showed many attending the site without facemasks.

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