Israel launches commission to probe festival stampede

Tel Aviv: The Israeli cabinet has approved the establishment of a state commission of inquiry into the deadly Jewish religious festival stampede in April that claimed 45 lives.

The inquiry commission will investigate “all aspects” of the event, in which a narrow and slippery metal-floored passageway in the men’s section of the crowded site in north Israel’s Mount Meron collapsed on April 30, according to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday.

The probe will look into “the circles of decision-making that led to the approval of the event, the determination of the outline that was approved and its terms, and the overall professional and legal questions regarding safety at mass events”, the statement said.

Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday that the probe is “a moral debt to the Israeli public as well as the families,” stressing that “we must ensure a similar event will never occur”.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that “a commission cannot bring back those lives but the government can do everything to prevent unnecessary loss of life in the future”.

The bereaved families welcomed the decision but said such a commission should have been established a week after the incident.

 “It is sad that we have to fight for it. We hope the lesson will be learned to prevent another disaster,” the families said in a joint statement.

Some 100,000 people were in attendance at the festival on the day of the tragic incident. Besides the victims, about 150 were injured making it the deadliest civil disaster in the history of Israel.