JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel was considering deporting 1,000 Eritreans who took part in “riots” in Tel Aviv over the weekend that injured dozens, including Israeli policemen.
Clashes erupted on Saturday when a demonstration against an Eritrean government event turned violent, injuring nearly 140 people, including a dozen Eritrean asylum seekers who were hit by Israeli police gunfire.
The clashes began when hundreds of anti-government Eritreans came to prevent the event from taking place in Tel Aviv, the commercial centre of Israel.
Israeli police declared the gathering an illegal demonstration and ordered the street to be emptied.
But demonstrators clashed with police who “used live fire against rioters,” police said in a statement, adding that at least 49 of their personnel were wounded.
While police and Eritrean demonstrators clashed at the event site, there were also confrontations between supporters and opponents of Eritrea’s government elsewhere in Tel Aviv.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said the clashes between Eritrean government supporters and opponents had crossed a “red line”.
“At the special ministerial committee I established today, we asked for a few swift measures, including expelling a thousand regime supporters who took part in these riots,” he said in a statement.
“They cannot of course claim to be refugees. They support this regime. If they support it so much, they can return to the country of their origin.”
Eritrea has been led by President Isaias Afwerki since its formal declaration of independence in 1993.
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.