Two dead and scores injured as gallery collapses at Israeli synagogue

Dozens of black hats lay abandoned after worshippers fled synagogue

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At least two people were killed and more than 160 rushed to hospital when a gallery at an Israeli synagogue collapsed on Sunday, weeks after the country had its worst civilian disaster with dozens killed at a Jewish celebration.

A boy, aged 12, and a man, 40, died when the highest row of the gallery gave way at the building in Givat Zeev, a settlement north of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

Israel Weingarten, one of the first paramedics on the scene, said he saw "a lot of people running outside from the building and a lot of screaming, and people asking for help".

"The tribune [stands] just fell down," Mr Weingarten told The National. "Men and boys, there were fathers and sons standing there on the tribune, who were praying."

Dozens of ambulances took 167 injured people to hospitals, the Magen David Adom paramedic service said.

Members of the security forces and rescuers in hard hats were at the scene, while ultra-Orthodox men and boys prayers near by.

Inside the synagogue, which was still under construction, plastic chairs were scattered and dozens of black hats lay abandoned.

The collapse happened as hundreds of worshippers gathered to celebrate Shavuot, a Jewish spring holiday.

It came less than three weeks after 45 worshippers, mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews, died during an annual pilgrimage at Mount Meron in northern Israel.

An estimated 100,000 people had travelled to the site for Lag BaOmer festivities, when some fell and were crushed to death by the crowds.

The April 29 accident was the deadliest civilian disaster in Israel's history, prompting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare a day of national mourning and promise an investigation.