Saturday, September 2, 2023

Israeli police and Eritrean asylum seekers get into a fight

Clashes between Eritrean asylum seekers and Israeli police have left dozens hurt in Tel Aviv, with some of those wounded by live fire.

Hundreds of demonstrators were met with stun grenades, tear gas, and sponge-tipped bullets.

Protests began after anti-government groups claimed they were requested by Israeli authorities to cancel a Saturday event at the Eritrean consulate.

Protesters, however, battled with government supporters as well.

This is the latest outbreak of violence in recent weeks, and it stems from tensions within Eritrea over President Isaias Afwerki's authority, which have spread to the country's diaspora.

Israeli media claimed the protesters headed in the direction of the site where the event was scheduled to take place. They were held back by police barricades at first, but eventually made it through.

Police helicopters flew overhead as Israeli cops shot live bullets into the air, according to residents of central Tel Aviv.

Demonstrators clashed with law enforcement and vandalized vehicles and local businesses.

According to a statement released by Israeli authorities, officers fired their weapons after fearing for their safety.

Eritrean officials booked the space for the occasion, but irate demonstrators burst in and overturned tables and chairs.

Videos posted online also depicted violent clashes between pro-regime and anti-regime Eritreans in the streets. Israeli police claimed they attempted to stop the fighting.

The police issued a warning on X (formerly known as Twitter) asking bystanders to keep away from the location.

Overview of Eritrea as a country
At a press conference earlier this week, police said that rival groups in Eritrea had reached an agreement to hold separate rallies on the same day.

Government supporters in Asmara were scheduled to gather nearby the embassy. Protesters planned to gather not far away at the decommissioned central bus station.

According to the police, however, the two parties did not follow through on their agreements.

As one senior police official told the Haaretz newspaper, "We were very surprised by the level of violence, scenes you only see in the West Bank."

The police say that hundreds of officers have been sent to the area.

As of midday, the Magen David Adom emergency medical service said that they had cared for 114 injured people. Thirty police officers, the most majority of whom were bruised, were among those who escaped with only minor injuries. Eight were in critical condition, while 13 others were just mildly ill.

Asylum seekers from Eritrea have been known to resort to violence against one another in the past.

There has been a turf war in south Tel Aviv between regime supporters and opponents, with one asylum seeker who was a regime supporter being fatally murdered in February of this year.

About 18,000 Eritreans are seeking asylum in Israel, most of whom entered illegally through the Sinai Peninsula several years ago. They claimed they left one of the most restrictive countries in the world due to threats of violence, persecution, and mandatory military service.

The authorities in Israel have reportedly not differentiated between asylum seekers based on political affiliations, despite the fact that it would appear that Eritreans who support the dictatorship do not require international protection as refugees.

The diaspora of Eritrea has been holding celebrations in honor of the country's 30th anniversary of independence from Ethiopia.

However, not only in Israel have protests and outbreaks of violence been a problem; just last month, a three-day Eritrean cultural event in Toronto, Canada had to be canceled because of violence between supporters and opponents of Eritrea's regime.

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