(July 3, 2019 / JNS) According to the Israel Police, more than 100 people have been arrested across the country in connection with the wave of protests sparked by the shooting of a young Israeli-Ethiopian man by an off-duty police officer on Sunday.
The protests devolved into violent riots Tuesday night, following the funeral earlier in the day of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah. Police reported 136 arrests and 111 officers wounded across the country.
According to police, though an effort was made to act with restraint in the early hours of Tuesday’s demonstrations, when things became violent they were forced to act. Those arrested are being held for assaulting police officers, vandalism and disturbing public order, said police.
Tekah was shot in Haifa’s Kiryat Haim neighborhood on Sunday when an off-duty police officer attempted to break up a street fight among some youths at a playground he was visiting with his wife and children.
According to police, the officer claims that after he identified himself to the youths they began throwing stones at him. The officer, believing he and his family were in danger, fired his weapon at the ground. The officer claims the bullet ricocheted and struck Tekah in the chest. The officer’s version of events has reportedly been refuted by an eyewitness to the shooting.
The officer was arrested on suspicion of unlawful killing, but later released to house arrest by the Haifa Magistrate’s Court. He was placed under police protection due to fears for his safety, and a gag order was placed on the publication of his name for the same reason.
Demonstrators continued to block major roads overnight Tuesday. Images of cars being torched and roads strewn with debris have been circulating on social media.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed his remorse for “the great sorrow and suffering” of the Ethiopian community in the wake of the killing, but said on Wednesday morning that “today, if we see such a level of violence, police will have no choice but to use all means to disperse demonstrations.”
Activist leaders have called for protesters to gather on Wednesday afternoon at major intersections throughout to country.