The Justice Ministry said investigators would look into whether there had been any police misconduct. But police commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, in a message to the police force, said that police should not be singled out.

“We are working to discover the truth and produce educated and balanced lessons for all organisations involved in this complex event,” he said.

FOREIGNERS AMONG VICTIMS

In his noon address in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican, Pope Francis said he would remember the victims and their families in prayer.

“With sadness, I express my closeness to the people of Israel for the incident last Friday on Mount Meron that caused the death of 45 people and numerous injuries,” Francis said.

Police and regional government officials said the Mount Meron site was administered by four separate private religious groups, making oversight difficult.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised an investigation. His presidential mandate to form a new government, after an inconclusive March 23 election, expires on Wednesday, but public calls to determine responsibility for the tragedy seemed certain to hound any incoming administration.

An official list of fatalities showed that five of the dead were visiting U.S. nationals. Two Canadians, a British citizen and an Argentinian were also killed.

Avigdor Chayut, who was injured in the crush, buried his 13-year-old son Yedidya overnight in a cemetery in Bnei Brak, a largely religious town near Tel Aviv.

He told Kan public radio he and Yedidya had become separated in the passageway. But a younger son, Shmuel, was at the father’s side as people fell on top of them. Shmuel survived with a sprained limb.

“Dad, I am about to die. Let’s say ‘Shema Yisrael’ (Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one),” he heard 10-year-old Shmuel say – a prayer traditionally spoken by Jews facing imminent death. 

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