Officers scrutinized as Israel mourns 45 useless at pageant

JERUSALEM (AP) – Officers got here below growing scrutiny on Sunday for ignoring warnings about safety breaches at certainly one of Israel’s most visited holy websites, because the nation mourned 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews killed in a stampede at a pageant there.

The Mount Meron catastrophe additionally fueled debate over the position of the ultra-Orthodox minority in Israel and the refusal of a few of its leaders to acknowledge the authority of the state. The pageant had drawn some 100,000 individuals, most of them ultra-Orthodox Jews, after highly effective ultra-Orthodox politicians allegedly pressured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others to elevate attendance restrictions.

On Sunday, a gaggle of retired police commissioners referred to as on the prime minister to launch an unbiased fee with broad investigative powers. The physique is alleged to have the facility to survey senior politicians and decision-makers, going past an ongoing Justice Division investigation that examines potential misconduct by cops on the web site.

The more and more acrimonious blame sport comes throughout a political energy battle between Netanyahu and former allies turned enemies decided to overthrow him. After an inconclusive election in March, Netanyahu’s probabilities of forming a ruling coalition and staying in energy look like diminishing. His ultra-Orthodox political allies would determine prominently in any authorities led by Netanyahu.

The stampede, the deadliest civil catastrophe in Israel’s historical past, came about Friday morning at a pageant referred to as Lag BaOmer on Mount Meron in northern Israel. The location is believed to be the burial place of the distinguished second-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. The annual spring celebrations are marked by the lighting of huge bonfires, songs and dances.

This 12 months’s festivities have unfolded regardless of nationwide coronavirus restrictions that stop gatherings of greater than 500 individuals exterior and long-standing criticism from police and well being officers in recent times relating to the protection of assemblies in mass on the positioning.

A standard grievance heard within the wake of the stampede was that no single authority was accountable for managing pageant safety.

The location is ostensibly managed by the Nationwide Heart for Holy Locations of the Division of Non secular Companies.

However Eli Ben Dahan, a former deputy minister of non secular providers, stated in an interview with Kan radio “there isn’t any one who may be stated to be main the occasion, all the pieces falls to them. shoulders.” Mount Meron is split between an assortment of non secular trusts, he defined, and has requested that it’s positioned below a single administrative authority.

“I do not assume a spot within the State of Israel ought to be extraterritorial, that the state has no management over it, doesn’t handle it, isn’t accountable for it,” he stated. .

Over the weekend, a number of retired police commanders informed Israeli TV stations that in their years of labor, they’d come below intense political stress to accede to the desires of non secular politicians. They stated they didn’t have the facility to implement security guidelines, akin to limiting attendance.

Yosef Schwinger, head of the Nationwide Heart for Holy Locations, stated in an interview hours earlier than the stampede that Residence Secretary Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Shas celebration “fought like a lion” in a gathering Cupboard to permit the pageant to happen. unhindered. Schwinger stated Deri deserves credit score for “saving” the Lag BaOmer celebration from a extra restricted format.

Consultants have lengthy warned that the positioning was not sufficiently outfitted to accommodate massive numbers of tourists throughout the holidays and that the present state of infrastructure posed a safety danger.

The warnings got here true early Friday when 1000’s of individuals leaving an space of ​​the positioning crossed a slim passage descending the mountain. A slope and slippery stairs prompted individuals to slide and fall, leading to a human avalanche that killed 45 individuals and injured not less than 150.

As of Sunday morning, well being officers had recognized all these killed. All however one of many useless have been buried in hasty funerals, with a break on the Jewish Sabbath between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. An individual who attended Thursday night time’s occasion was nonetheless lacking.

Israel marked a nationwide day of mourning on Sunday. Flags flew from half the employees in Israel and its diplomatic missions overseas, and sporting and cultural occasions have been canceled.

The tragedy comes at a delicate time for Netanyahu, who struggled to muster a governing coalition within the weeks following the March 23 parliamentary elections.

His deadline for forming a brand new authorities is Tuesday, however he may ask for a two-week extension from the Israeli president.

Israel has held 4 elections in two years, probably the most protracted political disaster within the nation’s historical past. Netanyahu’s most loyal coalition companions are the 2 ultra-Orthodox events, which have exerted disproportionate affect on Israeli politics as kingmakers in governing coalitions.

If he fails to type a authorities, a free coalition of opponents and former allies could have the chance to type their very own authorities.

Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of belief and accepting bribes in three circumstances. He denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down on fees.

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