TEL AVIV: A dozen Eritrean asylum seekers were wounded by Israeli police gunfire in Tel Aviv on Saturday after a demonstration against an Eritrean government event turned violent, police and medical sources said.
Clashes began outside a south Tel Aviv venue that was set to host a pro-regime event organised by the Eritrean Embassy in Israel.
Hundreds of anti-government Eritreans came to the site to prevent the event from taking place. Police declared the gathering an illegal demonstration and ordered the street to be emptied.
Protesters “hurled rocks and wooden planks” at officers, who used riot dispersal means and mounted forces to clear the Eritreans, some of whom vandalised shops in the area, police said.
“Officers who feared for their lives used live fire against rioters,” police added in a statement, noting that 27 of their members were wounded.
“At this time, large police and Border Police forces continue to operate against lawbreakers in the Tel Aviv area,” it said.
Police said they arrested 39 suspects “who assaulted police and threw stones” at officers, with some of them carrying “weapons, tear gas, and an electrical stun gun”.
Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency service, said it treated 114 people, eight of whom were in serious condition.
Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said it treated 43 people wounded in the clashes, including a dozen with gunshot wounds.
Police said they were reinforcing their personnel in the area, with reports of clashes between Eritreans and police, as well as between supporters and opponents of Eritrea’s regime, continuing elsewhere in south Tel Aviv.
As of June, there were 17,850 asylum seekers from Eritrea in Israel, most of whom had arrived illegally through Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula years ago.
They settled in a number of poor neighbourhoods in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, the country’s economic capital.
Eritrea has been led by authoritarian President Isaias Afwerki since its formal declaration of independence in 1993. It is one of the world’s most isolated states and sits near the bottom of global rankings for press freedom, human rights, civil liberties and economic development.
Eritreans who fled to Israel over its border with Egypt say they will face persecution if they are repatriated. Eritrea requires exit permits for its citizens and has a mandatory military draft. — Agencies