Supporters and critics of Eritrean government engage in violent clashes at a pro-government event in Tel Aviv.
More than 100 people have been injured in clashes between rival groups of protesters from Eritrea in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv with the police firing warning shots in the air to disperse the demonstrators.
Fighting broke out on Saturday after hundreds of Eritreans critical of their government approached a venue where a pro-government event was being held.
Protesters broke through police barriers and smashed windows of police and other cars as well as windows of nearby stores, the Haaretz newspaper reported. They were also able to enter the venue near the Eritrean embassy and smash up chairs and tables.
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, said the police did not anticipate the intensity of the violence that broke out.
“The demonstrators were able to break through the barriers pretty rapidly. The police had to respond with tear gas, stun grenades. There were running battles between the demonstrators and the police in riot equipment,” he said.
“At least 30 police officers were injured in the clashes,” Brennan said, adding that there are questions if the police could have better responded.
President Isaias Afwerki, 77, has ruled Eritrea since it gained independence in 1991. Asmara has never held elections. Political parties are banned, and freedom of expression and the press are heavily restricted.
There is neither a parliament nor independent courts or civil society organisations. In addition, there is strict mandatory military service and a forced labour system, from which many Eritreans flee abroad.
The anti-government demonstrators had previously asked the police to cancel the pro-government event, which was organised by Eritrea’s embassy, which they accuse of trying to monitor and track them.
“There are stark divisions among the nearly 20,000 Eritreans based in Israel. Critics of the regime describe it as the North Korea of Africa,” the Al Jazeera correspondent said.
“In 2019, a pro-president supporter was stabbed and beaten to death in Tel Aviv by three people opposed to the president.”