Netanyahu vows to 'immediately' deport Eritrean asylum seekers after Tel Aviv clashes

Independence celebrations draw ire of Eritreans seeking new home in Middle East

An Israeli police officer and an Eritrean demonstrator in Tel Aviv on Saturday. EPA
Powered by automated translation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has threatened to immediately deport Eritrean asylum seekers after more than a hundred people were injured in clashes with police on Saturday.

Following a ministers' meeting in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu hit out at the Supreme Court for blocking deportations and said he would start deporting “rioters” immediately.

“There remains the serious problem of the illegal infiltrators in southern Tel Aviv and other places, but what happened yesterday crossed a red line,” he said. “This disturbance, the bloodshed, these are things that we cannot tolerate.

“We are seeking strong steps against the rioters, including the immediate expulsion of those who took part. It is hard for me to understand why we would have a problem with those who declare that they support the regime; they certainly cannot claim refugee status.”

Mr Netanyahu vowed to update plans “to repatriate all of the remaining illegal infiltrators from the State of Israel”, adding: “This is the purpose of our meeting today.”

Israeli media reported at least 150 people were injured in the clashes, while the police said 27 officers were injured.

Three protesters were shot by live rounds after police officers said they felt “real danger to their lives”.

Israeli police in riot gear and on horseback tried to corral the protesters, who broke through barricades and hurled chunks of pavement, batteries and rocks at them.

“Officers who feared for their lives used live fire against rioters,” police said, adding that 27 officers were wounded.

Police said they arrested 10 suspects “who assaulted police and threw stones”.

There were further violent protests reported as Eritrea marked 30 years of independence at festivals in Europe and North America.

Opponents of the Eritrean regime run during clashes with Israeli police at a protest against a pro-regime conference, in Tel Aviv, Israel. EPA

Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital said it treated 38 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 government, continuing elsewhere in south Tel Aviv.

Eritreans make up the majority of the more than 30,000 African asylum seekers in Israel.

President Isaias Afwerki, 77, has led the nation in the Horn of Africa since 1993, taking power after the country won independence from Ethiopia in a long guerrilla war.

In Israel, Eritreans say they face an uncertain future as the state attempts to deport them. But many say they enjoy some freedoms including the right to protest.

Updated: September 03, 2023, 1:57 PM