Middle East

Israel’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests continue as family of slain 19-year-old calls for restraint

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A wave of "Black Lives Matter" style protests have erupted in Israel after the shooting death of an Israeli-Ethiopian teen by an off-duty police officer.

Protests in Israel are continuing after 19-year-old Solomon Tekah's was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer.

The young man of Ethiopian origin was shot on 30 June causing an outbreak of unrest being likened to the “Black Lives Matter" movement in the United States.

Protesters have blamed the unarmed teen's death on racism and police brutality, but his family has since called for calm following his funeral.

Their demonstrations had escalated near the site of his killing in northern Israel, where protesters had burned tyres and blocked roads in defiance.

But in a statement, Solomon’s family urged “patience” from those supporting the cause.

“We lost a son, and we ask the public not to hold public protests until the shiva mourning period ends, and to act with restraint and patience,” the family said in a  statement.

Protesters rally in support of Solomon Tekah, who was killed by an off-duty police officer, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 03, 2019.
Protesters rally in support of Solomon Tekah, who was killed by an off-duty police officer, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 03, 2019.
Anadolu

“When the shiva is over, we will hold our rightful and justified protest in an organised way.

“Without disrupting public order, and certainly without violence.".  

But anger over his death remains with outbreaks of protesters continuing into the third day of demonstrations.

Groups of youths gathered to protest, but their demonstrations were largely peaceful in comparison to previous days of unrest. 

In the economic capital Tel Aviv, around 100 people scuffled with police when they blocked a road before being dispersed.

Police arrest a a man during a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
Police arrest a a man during a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
AP

Since Solomon’s death, protesters have denounced what they see as discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

Police say more than 140 people have been arrested and 111 officers have been wounded, many by stones, bottles and petrol bombs that were thrown at them.

They had initially allowed demonstrators to block roads in some locations to keep direct confrontations to a minimum and avoid setting off further tensions.

But authorities have since warned they will not allow it saying there is no place for attacks on police and property.  

Footage of major intersections blocked by protesters burning tyres - causing massive traffic jams - dominated news coverage in Israel over the last couple of days. A number of cars were also burned.

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called for restraint while acknowledging issues facing the Israeli-Ethiopian community must be addressed.

Police arrest a a man during a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
Police arrest a a man during a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
AP

'Tragedy'

Mr Netanyahu has called the killing a "tragedy" and said "our hearts are with the family and lessons will be learned."

"But one thing is clear: we cannot tolerate the violence we saw yesterday," he said.

"We cannot see the violent blocking of roads, we cannot see Molotov cocktails, attacks on police officers, on citizens and on private property."

Family members and friends hold a picture and mourn Solomon Tekah, Israel, 02 July 2019.
Family members and friends hold a picture and mourn Solomon Tekah, Israel, 02 July 2019.
EPA

Mr Tekah's killing has 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 Mr Tekah 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.

Police detain a woman during a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
Police detain a woman during a protest in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, July 3, 2019.

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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