An Israeli police officer who oversees security preparations for the massive religious celebration, which killed 45 people in frenzy on Friday, said he was responsible for the disaster, according to reports.
“I have overall responsibility, for better or for worse, and ready for any investigation,” Northern District Commissioner Shimon Lavi told reporters hours after the tragedy, the Times of Israel reported.
Witnesses accused police of blocking a major exit path at the bottom of a narrow corridor that had been seen as a potentially dangerous bottleneck for years, but Lavi said the exact cause of the tragedy was under investigation.
The early indications were that the deaths occurred when large numbers of people, mostly ultra-orthodox men, moved through an inclined corridor on the path out of the Mount Meron facility during the festival. Annual Lag Ba̵7;omer
People began their journey and fell apart, creating a disastrous domino effect.
Police periodically blocked the stairs at the bottom of the corridor, according to the Times of Israel, citing the Channel 12 report.
There are “on-going complex efforts to gather evidence to get the truth,” Lavi said, adding that police saved lives during the panic pushing crowds to help people.
Health chief Sharon Alroy-Pris, who had warned earlier this week that a massive demonstration in the area could trigger the COVID-19 epidemic, told the military radio station the tragedy. It can be avoided if the police enforce restrictions on the number of people allowed to participate.
“It is impossible to reach an agreement on who enforces the regulations at Mount Meron,” she said. “Let me remind you that the number of people allowed to gather outside is limited to 100 – it is a matter of fact. The police are responsible for the enforcement of the laws of the State of Israel. “
Meanwhile, President Biden said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his condolences and said the United States was ready to help.
In a statement, he said the United States was working to confirm reports that Americans could have been killed or injured in the stampede.
With post line