Israel begins probe into fatal Jewish festival stampede

An Israeli state commission to investigate the deadly stampede in April at a Jewish festival held its first hearing.

The government-appointed commission began proceedings on Sunday to determine what led to the accident at Mount Meron in northern Israel during which 45 people were crushed to death as a passage collapsed, reports Xinhua news agency.

The panel, headed by former Supreme Court Justice Miriam Naor, heard testimony from Northern District police chief Shimon Lavi, the officer in charge of the event.

Lavi told the committee that the annual festival is “the most significant event for the Israeli police”, requiring extensive planning, preparations and resources.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Lavi said that only one day before the festival, he learnt that “the event will be held without any coronavirus-related limitations”.

The discussions of the commission are open to the public and broadcast live.

On April 30, tens of thousands of people gathered for a traditional festival to mark the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer.

The stampede is believed to start when people moved through a narrow passageway with slippery metal flooring.

According to official figures, 45 people, including children, were killed and additional 102 people were injured.

It was the deadliest civil accident in Israel’s history.