Dozens of people were crushed to death during a stampede at a religious bonfire in northeast Israel on Friday, rescue services said.

At least 44 people were killed during the event while more than 150 sustained injuries, reported Haaretz.

“MDA is fighting for the lives of dozens wounded, and will not give up until the last victim is evacuated,” Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency service, was quoted as saying.

Calling it a “heavy disaster”, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Twitter and said: “We are all praying for the wellbeing of the casualties.”

The stampede occurred at the base of Mount Meron, as tens of thousands of people gathered there to celebrate Lag Ba’Omer, a holiday that in part commemorates 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

His tomb, buried at the base of Mount Meron, is considered a holy site in Israel and ultra-Orthodox Jews throng there for the annual commemoration that includes all-night prayer and mystical songs and dance.

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