Erdan: Police Won’t Tolerate a Third Night of Rioting

A car is seen on fire during a protest following the death of 19-year-old Solomon Tekah, an Ethiopian who was shot and killed few days ago in Kiryat Chaim by an off-duty police officer, in Tel Aviv, Tuesday. (Flash90)

After two nights of what he called “unprecedented violence that we have not seen before,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday that police would not tolerate a third night of rioting by members of the Ethiopian community, he told Army Radio in an interview.

“A terrible event occurred two days ago, a painful and sad event, in which a police officer tragically shot Solomon Tekah, z”l,” said Erdan, referring to the event that sparked the rioting. “I understand and sympathize with the pain of the family and community members, but if this violence continues, police will use all means necessary to break up demonstrations.”

Over 50 people, both protesters and police, were injured in riots that took place around the country Tuesday night. Following the levayah of Tekah, thousands of Ethiopian community members blocked roads and intersections, creating monumental traffic jams. Police faced off against the rioters, using tear gas and mounted horses to break up the riots, while rioters responded by throwing rocks and garbage at police.

Erdan called on officials and elders in the community to assert their authority. “As soon as there is no authority or leadership, when someone gets on social media and spreads incitement, calling on youths to come and join riots, that is what is going to happen,” said Erdan. “We managed to ensure that there were almost no injuries among protesters and citizens, but 47 police officers were injured. We are investigating the incident and hope to come to a conclusion soon.”

Teka, 19 years old, was shot Sunday night by an off-duty policeman under circumstances that are not clear. According to police, the officer was in a park with his family during the evening hours of Sunday, when he noticed a fight breaking out among some teenagers. The off-duty officer tried to intervene and break up the fight. He identified himself as a police officer, but the youths  began throwing rocks at him. Police said the officer felt his life was in danger, and he opened fire.

It is not clear if he was aiming at Teka, but the youth was mortally wounded. He was rushed to Rambam Hospital in Haifa, where he died of his wounds. Witnesses said that Teka was shot when he tried to run away from the officer. Teka’s levayah was held Tuesday, with thousands in attendance.

Speaking Tuesday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “we all mourn the tragic death of young Solomon Tekah. We embrace the family. We embrace the Ethiopian community. It is dear to me; it is dear to us. These are not mere words. I know that there are problems that need to be solved. We have worked hard and need to work more to solve them. But I ask of you one thing. Stop blocking the roads. We are a nation of law; we will not tolerate the blocking of roads. I ask you, let us solve the problems together while upholding the law.”

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