Middle East

Israel hit by protests over police killing of youth of Ethiopian origin


Angry protesters clashed with Israeli police Tuesday over an off-duty officer's killing of a young man of Ethiopian origin, as the incident drew fresh accusations of racism.

Crowds of Ethiopian Israelis battled police and blocked highways on at least 10 junctions across the country, with over a dozen protesters detained and leaving thousands of motorists stranded in huge traffic jams.

Solomon Teka, said to be 18 or 19, was buried in the day. He was shot dead in Kiryat Haim, a town near the northern port city of Haifa, late Sunday.

His death sparked outrage among members of the Ethiopian community, who say their young people live in constant fear of police harassment because they are black.

Hundreds took part in rallies on Monday, with police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld saying three officers were wounded.

"Police are speaking to leaders of the Ethiopian community to calm the situation down," Rosenfeld said.

'It's murder'

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.

Israeli members of the Ethiopian community block a road in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv
Israeli members of the Ethiopian community block a road in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv

Thousands took to the streets of Tel Aviv in January after a young community member was shot dead by a police officer when he allegedly rushed at him holding a knife.

In Sunday's shooting, police initially 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.

Rosenfeld said the officer was placed under house arrest and a probe launched by the justice ministry department which investigates police conduct.

Demonstrators protest the killing of Solomon Tekah.
Demonstrators protest the killing of Solomon Tekah.

Interviewed on public radio Tuesday, the dead youth's cousin, Amir Teka, bridled when asked how he felt about the protests sparked by the "killing".

"It's not 'killing', it's murder," he said.

"It cannot be that a person is next to his home and gets murdered and they say 'killed'. What was it? A work accident? Was he hit by a car?" 

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