Dozens killed in Israel religious festival stampede

Dozens were killed in a stampede at a religious festival in Israel on Friday, in what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a "heavy disaster."

Tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews had gathered at the Mount Meron tomb for the annual Lag B'Omer commemorations, which include all-night prayer and dance.

Ecstatic crowds congregated despite warnings from public health officials.

Witnesses said they realized people had been trampled when an organizer appealed over a loudspeaker for the crowds to disperse.

The national emergency medical service said over a hundred people had been injured, with dozens dead.

Witnesses said some of the victims included children.

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

Videos on social media showed chaotic scenes as ultra-Orthodox men tried to push through walls of iron to escape the crush.

Bodies lay on stretchers in a corridor, covered in foil blankets.

As paramedics clambered to reach the wounded, police shut down the site and ordered revelers out.

Military helicopters took the wounded to hospitals.

The tomb at Mount Meron is an annual pilgrimage site, one of the holiest sites in the Jewish world.

Private bonfires at Mount Meron were banned last year due to public health restrictions.

But lockdown measures were eased this year as a result of the country's rapid vaccination rollout.