Politics Biden speaks with Netanyahu after deadly stampede in Israel
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President Biden offered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his "profound condolences" on Friday after more than 40 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a stampede during religious celebration on Thursday evening.
The White House said in a statement that the president offered assistance to Israel in responding to the disaster and caring for the wounded, as well as working to confirm reports that American citizens were killed or wounded during the ceremony.
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"Our Embassy and Department of State will provide all necessary support to any U.S. citizens and their family members affected by this sad event," the president said in the statement.
"The people of the United States and Israel are bound together by our families, our faiths, and our histories, and we will stand with our friends. Our prayers are with those who were injured and all those who lost loved ones. May their memories be a blessing."
A celebration marking the Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer in northern Israel devolved into a horrifying tragedy Thursday evening, with at least 45 people reportedly crushed to death, children reportedly among them, and at least 150 injured, many in critical condition, according to medics.
"This is one of the most difficult civil disasters the State of Israel has ever known and it is difficult to contain the magnitude of the disaster," Eli Bin, director general of the ambulance service Magen David Adom said in a statement Thursday and posted to Twitter.
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This is one of the most difficult civil disasters the State of Israel has ever known and it is difficult to contain the magnitude of the disaster," *MDA Director General Eli Bin* said tonight during the evacuation of the injured to the hospitals.- Magen David Adom (@Mdais)
Tens of thousands of religious Jews had gathered at Mount Meron near the sea of Galilee to celebrate Lag B'Omer, the tradition that includes a visit to the gravesite of a renowned 2nd century rabbi and massive bonfires on the mountainside.
The deadly crush was centered at a critical point of a slippery walkway where the crowding was at its height,, quoting an Israeli police official. Some of the people on the walkway slipped and, amid the throng, fell on those below, causing a domino effect.
It was the first mass religious gathering in Israel since the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.
Israel, which has had one of the most successful vaccination rollout campaigns, has kept in place some restrictions on large gatherings but has also come up against tension from the Orthodox community that has continued to hold mass gatherings and protest against any health precautions, such as mask wearing, social distancing or vaccines.
Netanyahu visited the site of the tragedy on Friday, called it "one of the worst disasters to hit the State of Israel" and declared Sunday a day of mourning.
New players pose additional threats to Jerusalem tensions .
JERUSALEM (AP) — The holy city of Jerusalem, a tinderbox of competing religious and political claims, has repeatedly triggered bouts of Israeli-Palestinian violence. This time around, there have been some additional sparks, including Jewish extremists who, emboldened by their political patrons’ recent election to parliament, staged a provocative march to Jerusalem’s walled Old City chanting “death to the Arabs.” Over the course of a few days, nightly Jerusalem street brawls between Israeli police and disaffected Palestinian residents of the city escalated to cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas.