By Rami Amichai
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – More than 100 people were injured in violent clashes in Tel Aviv between Eritrean government supporters celebrating an Eritrea Day event and opponents of President Isaias Afwerki.
Israeli police fired stun grenades to break up the clashes, while some protesters hurled stones at police and set fire to trash bins, Reuters journalists at the scene said. Footage on social media showed Eritrean government supporters beating anti-government protesters with clubs.
Israeli medical officials said more than 114 people had been treated for injuries, including about 30 police officers.
The violence broke out around an event organised by the Eritrean embassy to mark Revolution Day on Sept. 1, which commemorates the start of the Eritrean War of Independence against Ethiopia in 1961. I
Isaias has ruled since Eritrea gained independence in 1993. Human rights groups have condemned his government as being highly repressive and the country is under U.S. and EU sanctions for alleged abuses.
“Why did we run from our country?,” one protester in Tel Aviv, Hagos Gavriot, told Reuters. “Why the Israeli police gave them a permit to celebrate…for this dictator? We are against this. Why am I here seeking a shelter?”
Reuters journalists saw men with head wounds and bloodied arms, some lying on the ground of a children’s playground. Police marched through the streets firing stun grenades at protesters.
“At this time, large police and Border Police forces continue to operate against lawbreakers in the Tel Aviv area,” an Israeli police statement said.
About 25,500 Eritrean asylum seekers currently live in Israel, according to Assaf, an organization that aids refugees.
Eritreans who fled to Israel over its border with Egypt say they will face persecution if they are repatriated. Eritrea requires exit permits for its citizens and has a mandatory military draft.
(Reporting by Emily Rose, Hannah Confino; Editing by Angus MacSwan)