Israel’s nationwide demonstrations over the fatal police shooting of an Ethiopian-Israeli teenager turned violent on Tuesday evening, with dozens of protesters and officers injured in clashes.
The shooting of 19-year-old Solomon Teka by an off-duty police officer in Kiryat Haim, just north of Haifa, has ignited long-simmering frustrations among Ethiopian-Israelis over racism in the country. An investigation into the incident, which took place on Sunday, is still ongoing.
Israel’s police spokesman said 111 police officers were injured in clashes during demonstrations. Dozens of protesters were also wounded, Israel’s emergency response service, Magen David Adom, said.
According to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, protesters attacked police and civilians.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed his sorrow at the death of Teka and insisted the protesters had a right to demonstrate, but warned against the demonstrations turning violent once again, with more nationwide protests expected on Wednesday.
“We will not tolerate anarchy and we will not tolerate a major hit to the public order,” Erdan said in a statement Tuesday night.
Video distributed by police showed a number of cars on fire.
Another video widely shared on social media shows an angry mob jumping on a car and trying to smash its windows as it drives down the street.
Many demonstrations took place at road junctions causing long delays to traffic.
Police had initially taken a permissive stance opposite the protests.
“Over the last days the police have allowed demonstrations to take place and let protesters openly demonstrate. Police have carried out an open dialogue with the leaders of the community in order to prevent riots and violence against police or civilians,” a police statement said.
It went on, “Police are now responding by dispersing the protests and preventing further riots and acts of danger to policeman and civilians.”
An investigation into the precise circumstances of Sunday’s shooting is underway.
An initial statement by police about the incident — challenged by eye-witnesses, according to reports in Israeli media – said the off-duty officer described seeing a fight in a playground.
After approaching the people involved in the fight and telling them he was a police officer, they started throwing stones at him, the police statement said.
The off-duty officer found himself in a life-threatening situation, the statement said, and he opened fire.
Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, who has spoken often about his wish to see greater social cohesion in Israel, addressed the country’s Ethiopian community directly, and appealed for calm.
In a statement, he said, “I ask all of us to act responsibly and with moderation. I know that you are doing everything in your power to convey the voice of your protest and to lead a change that is all about righting wrongs and creating a better future. No one wants revenge. The agitation comes from a deep rift and a great prayer for making things better. We are all partners, we must all be partners in this process. We have no other choice. We have no other home.”