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Many dead in stampede at religious celebration in Israel

A stampede at a religious celebration that drew tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews to a mountain in northern Israel on Thursday evening left at least 15 dead and dozens injured, local reports said.

“A terrible disaster,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as conflicting reports came from Mount Meron.

By some estimates, around 100,000 people were crowded around midnight to celebrate the feast of Lag b’Omer, when ultra-Orthodox Jews traditionally gathered at the tomb of a prominent ancient rabbi on Mount Meron. The festivities include dances and bonfires.

According to initial reports, the stampede was triggered by a collapsing grandstand, although rescuers later attributed it to the large number of people.

A video that was reportedly taken just before the bells showed a mass of ecstatic partying, almost moving like music.

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