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Tel Aviv Riots

Dozens of Israeli policemen injured in clashes with African migrant rioters in south Tel Aviv

Hundreds of rioters were injured, some by police live fire

Eritrean asylum seekers clash with Israeli police in south Tel Aviv, Sept. 2, 2023. (Photo: Omer Fichman/Flash90)

The Israeli police declared complete control of the situation on Saturday afternoon after nearly a whole day of violent rioting by Eritrean asylum seekers devastated several streets in south Tel Aviv.

The riots at first erupted as hundreds of Eritreans, most of whom fled from the Eritrean regime, demonstrated against an event being held by the Eritrean embassy in Tel Aviv on Saturday morning.

They then turned against police forces who were there to keep the sides separated.

Israeli media reported that between 150 to 170 people were hospitalized for injuries sustained in the riots throughout the day, including 49 police officers, one of whom is in serious condition with a head injury.

Hospitals in the area operated in a ‘war mode’ and declared a ‘mass casualty incident’ to be able to cope with the masses of injured people arriving all at once.

20 Eritreans were severely injured, with one migrant having to be sedated and ventilated. Thirty-nine rioters were arrested by the police, according to reports.

One group of policemen was entrapped by rioters and opened fire on them to disperse the rioters. The police investigation unit on Saturday evening announced it would investigate the use of live fire in the clashes.

“The police turned to the demonstrators, both the opponents of the regime and the supporters, and asked them to hold a legal protest,” Israel Police Commander Haim Bobalil told the Maariv newspaper.

“From the early hours of the morning, there was an understanding that there was an intention for clashes, at one point, the incident got out of control because they arrived and started throwing stones at the police, they arrived armed with clubs and knives with the aim of harming anyone who tries to arrest somebody… The police will continue to make arrests.”

Police Chief Kobi Shabtai arrived on the scene and received updates about the situation. He later told the media that “the crowd reached a level of violence that we haven’t encountered until now.”

Explaining why policemen opened fire, he said that “the troops were in dire straits and had to use live fire… reserve forces came in and rescued them and then we switched to a live fire attack and making arrests.”

The director of the Ichilov Hospital, Prof. Roni Gamzo, explained the situation his hospital faced.

"More than 40 wounded people suddenly arrived at the emergency room. We activated a small emergency room, and in light of the unexpected arrival of the wounded in very quick stages, then activated a large emergency room, which means hundreds of staff members.”

“Over six operating rooms were active at the same time. More than 15 seriously injured were treated and placed in the operating rooms… When the wounded arrived here, we saw that there was internal hostility among them as well, sides of some kind of conflict. We not only needed social support as most of them have no legal status, but we also separated them to prevent further conflicts here,” Gamzo added.

“The demonstrators wanted to protest the blatant interference of the Eritrean embassy in the lives of those who fled the brutal dictatorship. Eritrean embassies around the world are pursuing asylum seekers, and in other countries, embassy events have been canceled precisely because of the fear of flare-ups as we see before our eyes now,” said HaMoked for Refugees and Immigrants and ASSAF, an aid organization for refugees and asylum seekers, on Saturday.

Similar protests have led to violent clashes in the past, including in Sweden, Canada, the United States and Germany.

On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office released a statement announcing it would convene a special meeting of ministers to examine the possible measures against illegal migrants who took part in the riots, “including deportation measures.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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