Two killed as stand collapses in West Bank settlement

Two killed, hundreds injured as synagogue seating area collapses in Israeli West Bank settlement
2 min read
17 May, 2021
Two people were killed and scores injured when a seating area in a synagogue in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev in the occupied West Bank collapsed.
Scores of worshippers were injured after the seating area collapsed in the synagogue [Getty]

Two people were killed and scores injured after a seating area collapsed at an uncompleted synagogue in the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev in the occupied West Bank on Sunday evening, Israeli medics have said.

The seating area was crowded with ultra-Orthodox worshippers preparing for Shavuot, a major Jewish festival which marks the day Moses was given the Torah on Mount Sinai.

A spokesman for Magen David Adom, Israel's equivalent of the Red Cross, told Israeli Channel 13 TV that a man in his 50s and a 12-year-old boy was killed.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that 184 people were injured, with six in serious condition, ten in moderate condition, and the remainder lightly injured.   

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement saying that he was "praying" for the injured.

The incident comes three weeks after 45 Jewish worshippers marking the Lag BaOmer festival were killed in a stampede at Mount Meron in northern Israel.

Footage uploaded to Twitter showed the seating area in the synagogue collapsing as worshippers panicked.

The Israeli army has sent troops and helicopters to evacuate the injured, while Israeli authorities traded blame for the collapse.

The mayor of Givat Zeev said the building was unfinished and dangerous and that police had ignored previous calls to take action. Jerusalem police chief Doron Turgeman said the disaster was a case of "negligence" and that there would likely be arrests.

Deddi Simhi, head of the Israel Fire and Rescue Service, told Israel's Channel 12 that "this building is not finished. It doesn’t even have a permit for occupancy, and therefore let alone holding events in it".

Footage from the scene showed the five-story building was incomplete, with exposed concrete, rebar, and wooden boards, and plastic sheeting used as windows.

A sign in Hebrew pasted on a wall of the building warned that "for safety reasons entrance to the site is forbidden".

The Givat Zeev settlement was established by Israel in the occupied West Bank in 1977, on land confiscated from three Palestinian villages in violation of international law.

It is located between Jerusalem and Ramallah and had a population of 18,420 settlers in 2019.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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