Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a special ministerial team to consider the state’s next moves after a protest by Eritrean asylum seekers turned violent, leaving 49 police officers wounded.
Israeli ministers met on Sunday morning to discuss the government’s response to the previous day’s violent riots in Tel Aviv between rival Eritrean factions.
More than 170 people were injured, including 49 police officers, when a demonstration by Eritrean asylum seekers against an event at the Eritrean Embassy in the southern part of the city turned violent.
Rocks, clubs and other weapons were used against police and other rioters, and local businesses and parked vehicles were vandalized.
Officers deployed riot dispersal tools, including tear gas, but resorted to live ammunition when these proved ineffective, fearing for their lives, according to police. Thirty-nine people were arrested, with more expected in the coming days. An internal police investigation into the incident was launched.
“Following the severe disturbances in Tel Aviv, [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to convene a special ministerial team to examine measures to be taken against illegal infiltrators who took part in the disturbances, including steps toward deportation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Following the riots and the crush of injured people requiring hospital treatment, the Magen David Adom emergency response organization pleaded with the public to donate blood, and crowds reportedly showed up on Saturday evening at Ichilov Hospital. The hospital’s administrator, professor Ronni Gamzu, earlier said that the hospital was dealing with a mass casualty event.
Meanwhile, members of the Netanyahu-led coalition blamed the Supreme Court for creating the situation that led to the riot.
“If anyone had a doubt as to why the [judicial] reform is so important and what we are fighting for, they received a crushing answer to that today,” said Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
“We are fighting for the state to be Jewish and democratic. On the right of the residents of South Tel Aviv and Eilat to live safe lives. That South Tel Aviv will not turn into the Wild West. The government led and the Knesset enacted many laws over the years designed to deal with the phenomenon of infiltrators, but the High Court overruled these moves again and again,” he said.
Eritreans have rioted in other cities around the world, including in Stockholm last month, when anti-regime protesters stormed an Eritrean festival in the Swedish capital, leaving more than 50 injured and dozens arrested.
In both Stockholm and Tel Aviv, opponents of the Eritrean regime were authorized to hold protests before chaos ensued.
Human rights groups describe the northeastern African country as one of the most repressive in the world since breaking away from neighboring Ethiopia three decades ago. It is ruled by President Isaias Afwerki. Many have fled from the country’s mandatory military conscription.
Image: Eritrean asylum seekers who oppose the regime in Eritrea and pro-regime activists clash with Israeli police in South Tel Aviv, Sept. 2, 2023. Photo by Omer Fichman/Flash90.