Hundreds of Eritrean government supporters and opponents have clashed with each other and with Israeli police, leaving scores injured in one of the most violent street confrontations among African asylum seekers and migrants in Tel Aviv in recent memory.
The Magen David Adom rescue service said at least 114 people were hurt, including eight who were in serious condition on Saturday. The others had moderate or mild injuries.
Of those hurt, 30 were police officers, said Chaim Bublil, a Tel Aviv police commander. He said police had arrested 39 people and confiscated tasers, knives and clubs.
The clashes began outside a south Tel Aviv venue that was set to host an event organised by the Eritrean embassy in Israel. Anti-government protesters came to the site to prevent the event from taking place.
Israeli police declared the gathering an illegal demonstration and ordered the street to be emptied.
Police in riot gear shot tear gas, stun grenades and live rounds while officers on horseback tried to control the protesters, who broke through barricades and hurled chunks rocks at the police.
"Officers who feared for their lives used live fire against rioters," police added in a statement. Three protesters were hit by Israeli police fire, it said.
Police said they were reinforcing their personnel in the area, with reports of clashes between Eritreans and police, as well as between supporters and opponents of Eritrea's regime, continuing elsewhere in south Tel Aviv.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would convene a meeting on Sunday to discuss steps against those who participated in the clashes, including deportations. A statement by his office referred to them as “illegal infiltrators.”
Eritrea rulers to mark 30th anniversary
As of June, there were 17,850 asylum seekers from Eritrea in Israel, most of whom had arrived illegally through Egypt's Sinai Peninsula years ago.
They settled in a number of poor neighbourhoods in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, the country's economic capital.
The clashes came as Eritrean government supporters marked the 30th anniversary of the current ruler's rise to power.
Eritrea has been led by authoritarian President Isaias Afwerki, 77, since its formal declaration of independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
It is one of the world's most isolated states and sits near the bottom of global rankings for press freedom, human rights, civil liberties and economic development.
The nation on the Horn of Africa has one of the world’s worst human rights records, and the asylum-seekers fear death if they were to return.