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    03-Jul-2019

Israel Braces for More Protests over Police Killing of Youth

 

AFP

 

Israel braced for a third day of protests Wednesday after an off-duty police officer killed a young man of Ethiopian origin, as Israeli leaders urged calm amid accusations of racism.
 
Since Monday in areas throughout the country, protesters have blocked roads, burned tyres and denounced what they see as discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community.
 
Police say 136 people have been arrested and 111 officers have been wounded, many injured by stones, bottles and petrol bombs thrown at them.
 
Footage of major intersections being blocked by protesters burning tyres -- causing massive traffic jams -- has dominated news coverage in Israel over the last couple days. A number of cars were also burned.
 
Police have allowed demonstrators to block roads in some locations to keep direct confrontations to a minimum and avoid setting off further tensions, but signalled overnight they were prepared to act more forcefully.
 
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called for calm late Tuesday with new protests expected later Wednesday.
 
"We must stop -- I repeat, stop -- and think together how we go on from here," he said.
 
"We must allow the investigation into Solomon's death to run its course, and we must prevent the next death."
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday acknowledged "there are problems that need to be solved," but implored protesters to "stop blocking junctions".
 
"I ask you, let's solve the problems together while adhering to the law," he said. 
 
Solomon Teka, reportedly 18 or 19, was shot dead on Sunday in Kiryat Haim, a town near the northern port city of Haifa.
 
His killing sparked outrage among members of the Ethiopian community, who say their young people live in constant fear of police harassment because they are black.
 
Police said the officer saw a fight between "a number of youths" nearby and tried to break it up.
 
After the officer identified himself, the youths began throwing stones at him and he opened fire at Teka after "feeling that his life was in danger", a police statement said.
 
But the other young men and a passer-by said the policeman was not attacked, Israeli media reported.
 
Police said the officer was placed under house arrest and a probe launched by the justice ministry department which investigates police conduct.
 
Israel's Ethiopian Jewish community numbers around 140,000 people, including more than 50,000 born in the country.
 
Most are descendants of communities cut off from the Jewish world for centuries and who were belatedly recognised as Jews by Israeli religious authorities.
 
Israel took in tens of thousands of them in the 1980s and 1990s.
 
The community has consistently complained of institutionalised racism.
 
 

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