Shas leader Eli Yishai on Monday attacked Israel's policy on border infiltrators, calling the phenomenon an existential threat to Zionism.

There are over 50,000 African migrants and asylum seekers in Tel Aviv, according to government figures. According to the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority, around 7,000 people have infiltrated Israel’s southern border since the beginning of 2012.

Speaking at a conference for ambassadors, Yishai stated that "there are ministers and MKs that are acting irresponsibly, just to get a photo-op with the children of infiltrators. I do not have this privilege; I have the responsibility, as the interior minister, to safeguard the Jewish and Zionist character of the country."

Yishai's comments come against the backdrop of increasing violence against African communities in south Tel Aviv. Towards the end of April, four different buildings housing African migrants, including a kindergarten, were hit by Molotov cocktails thrown by unknown assailants. In another incident, two Molotov cocktails were thrown at a three-story house in the Hatikva neighborhood, inhabited by migrants from Nigeria.

In a letter penned on April 29, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to take immediate action against the phenomenon, saying that the southern part of his city is “exploding today before our eyes.”

“Extremists are exploiting the desperation of the area, which is declining into violence, racism and crime – the peak of which we witnessed over the past weekend,” he wrote. “The government of Israel must enact immediate decisions before it is too late.”

“Tens of thousands of migrant workers and infiltrators are already here, thousands more join them every month, and no one in the government is taking responsibility for dealing with them,” Huldai said. “It is impossible to ignore their needs as human beings and to expect that they won’t turn to crime.”

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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