Blessing Akachukneu said Friday she was afraid what tomorrow could bring, the day after unknown assailants threw a Molotov cocktail into the front courtyard of the day care she runs in south Tel Aviv’s Shapira neighborhood.
Akachukneu said she and her husband were at home Thursday night along with four children, from the ages of six months to three years old. She said they did not see the assailants throw the Molotov cocktail, and only found out about the incident when they were awoken by firefighters banging on their door.
“The kids don’t know it happened, they just got up this morning and were complaining about the burnt toys,” she said Friday, as friends stopped by to check out the damage.
A native of Nigeria, Akachukneu has lived in Israel for two years and in the Shapira neighborhood for the past seven months, in a small tworoom house where she operates the “Divine Day Care.” On Friday afternoon a mattress, a three-wheeler and several children’s toys laid scorched and melted on the concrete courtyard, while over a dozen small children played inside the house, which was full of cribs and small beds.
The day care was one of three sites hit by Molotov cocktails Friday night, all of which were buildings housing African asylum- seekers in the Shapira neighborhood.
No one was injured in the attacks, and there was scant property damage. Shortly after the incident, large numbers of police swarmed the scene to investigate the incident.
At one of the locations, a building housing two separate residential units occupied by African migrants, a young Eritrean man named Barak Mengashe on Friday showed where the assailants opened his window and threw a Molotov cocktail inside, which did not shatter. He then threw it back out into the street. His 11- month-old baby was sleeping on a mattress underneath the window, which opens to a cramped, one-room kitchen and bedroom with two beds.
On Friday, Police would not comment in detail on what they referred to as the “attempted arson.” Specifically, they refused to comment on whether they suspect the crime was racially motivated and on photographs that were published Friday morning that showed three additional Molotov cocktails found by police nearby.
Tel Aviv police admitted to The Jerusalem Post that they had not sent out an announcement to the press regarding the incident.
When asked by the Post why they had not followed standard protocol of sending out a press announcement, the police said that while there was no order not to do so, typically announcements were not made for “every little incident.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai released a statement on his Facebook page condemning the incident and alluding to his recognition that the incident had racial undertones.
The incident was also condemned by city councilman and south Tel Aviv neighborhood activist Shlomo Maslawi, who has held several demonstrations against the influx of African migrants in recent years.
“We condemn this incident and acts of violence. We say that this is not the way to solve the problem,” Maslawi said, adding that “our struggle is not against the Africans; it is against the government of Israel, which has abandoned the residents of south Tel Aviv.”
On Friday, MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), who heads the Knesset committee on foreign workers, said that the incident was a “badge of shame on the Israeli public” that “poses a risk to human life, including the lives of children.”
Horowitz added “even if there is an argument over the status of asylum-seekers living in Israel, there is no place for tolerating violence against them or for tolerating racism and racist attacks.”
The attacks were not the first in recent years to be suspected of being racially motivated. In December 2010, a racially tinged demonstration was held in the same neighborhood against the large number of African refugees and migrant workers who reside there. The demonstration came less than a week after unidentified assailants threw a burning tire at an apartment full of Sudanese in Ashdod.
Five of the seven residents of the apartment suffered smoke inhalation before they were able to break a window and flee in the Ashdod incident.
That same night, three teenage girls born in Israel to African migrant workers were beaten by a mob of youths near the entrance to the Hatikva neighborhood, the Hotline for Migrant Workers reported.
On Friday, a group of around 50 protesters demonstrated in Shapira near the site of one of the firebombings. They were met by a number of neighborhood residents who argued with them about their support of the African migrants.