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UN rights chief ‘alarmed’ by injury toll during south Tel Aviv unrest

Volker Turk singles out Israel while expressing dismay for fighting between rival Eritrean groups in various places, orders authorities to avoid hate speech

The United Nations’ rights chief said Monday he was “alarmed” by the high number of injuries during recent clashes in Israel involving Eritrean protesters.

Trouble erupted on Saturday when a demonstration against an Eritrean government event turned violent, with over 140 people hurt in street battles between rival groups and police attempting to restore order. The injured included a dozen Eritrean asylum seekers who were hit by gunfire, apparently from Israeli police.

“Alarmed at high number of injuries during protests involving opposing Eritrean protesters, particularly in Israel,” UN human rights chief Volker Turk said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Crucial that investigations take place, hate speech is avoided -– especially by authorities — and principle of non-refoulment is fully respected,” he added.

The clashes began outside a south Tel Aviv venue that was set to host a pro-regime event organized by the Eritrean embassy in Israel.

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Hundreds of anti-government Eritreans came to prevent the event from taking place, setting off fighting between pro- and anti-regime groups.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk at a news conference in Khartoum, Sudan, November 16, 2022. (Marwan Ali/AP)

Demonstrators also clashed with police who “used live fire against rioters,” Israeli police said in a statement, adding that at least 49 of their personnel were wounded.

While police and Eritrean demonstrators clashed at the event site, there were also confrontations between supporters and opponents of Eritrea’s government elsewhere in Tel Aviv.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel was considering deporting 1,000 Eritreans who took part in the unrest in Tel Aviv over the weekend.

According to June statistics, there are 17,850 Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel.