Chaos in Tel Aviv as infighting among Eritrean migrants leaves 150 injured

Anti-Eritrean government activists, left, clash with supporters of the Eritrean government, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

Over 100 people were injured on Saturday after Israeli riot police intervened during violent clashes between pro-government and pro-rebel Eritrean migrants in the economic capital of Tel Aviv.

Chaos ensued when hundreds of protesters who oppose the authoritarian regime of President Isaias Afwerki descended on the Eritrean embassy ahead of a scheduled government event demanding it be canceled.

The group was met by a large group of pro-government migrants, and video footage showed the two factions hurling stones and attacking each other with wooden planks on the city’s streets.

The two migrant sets were color-coordinated in blue and red clothing, suggesting considerable organization and planning had gone into the violent altercation.

The Israeli authorities declared the gathering an illegal demonstration and issued a dispersal order for the area, which many refused to comply with.

Police officers in riot gear were subsequently deployed to the scene and used stun grenades, tear gas, and sponge-tipped bullets against the migrant groups in an attempt to restore order.

More than 150 people were injured in the clashes including 27 police officers. Fifteen individuals are understood to be in a serious condition, according to The Times of Israel.

After initially storming and vandalizing the venue where the event was due to be held, anti-government protesters continued their rampage on the streets of Tel Aviv, damaging vehicles and smashing the windows of nearby businesses.

In a statement, Israeli police claimed officers used live ammunition against demonstrators, as they felt their lives were in danger; they further revealed that 39 suspects had been arrested and a number of weapons, tear gas canisters, and electrical stun guns had been seized from protesters.

Responding to the violent scenes on Saturday evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the government was looking at issuing deportation orders for those found to have been involved in the civil disorder.

“The prime minister has decided to convene a special ministerial team to review the possibility of taking action against illegal infiltrators who took part in the unrest, including deportation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

The clashes come just one month after similar civil unrest between pro- and anti-government Eritrean migrants at a cultural festival in Sweden organized by supporters of the Afwerki regime.

During this clash, more than 50 people were injured, including eight who were hospitalized, as approximately 1,000 demonstrators stormed through police barriers and tore down festival tents, torched vehicles, and attacked organizers with wooden sticks.

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