Merkel sends ‘heartfelt sympathy’ to Israel for deadly stampede

Merkel sends 'heartfelt sympathy' to Israel for deadly stampede
Jewish men comfort each other at the pilgrimage site where dozens of worshippers were killed in a stampede early Friday in northern Israel. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Israeli Emergency Medical Service United Hatzalah
German Chancellor Angela Merkel extended her "heartfelt sympathy" to Israel for the massive stampede at a densely packed Jewish pilgrimage site that killed at least 44 people on Friday, her spokesman said.

“In the name of the chancellor and the entire government, I would like express our heartfelt sympathy to the Israeli people for the catastrophe in Meron and its horrific consequences,” her spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters.

He said Merkel and her government “shared the grief of the families” of the victims who “had embarked as pilgrims for this religious festival of joy”.

“Our thoughts are also with the many injured in the hope that they can recover,” he said.

The nighttime disaster struck as tens of thousands of pilgrims were gathered in Meron at the site of the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second-century Talmudic sage, where mainly ultra-Orthodox Jews mark the Lag BaOmer holiday.

The gathering was expected to be a celebratory event in a nation that has largely reopened thanks to a successful vaccination effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

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