Suspected arson at Eritrean's apartment 390.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
For the second time in a little over a month, arsonists targeted a Jerusalem
apartment home to African migrants, seriously injuring an Eritrean man and
lightly injuring his pregnant wife.
Three crews of firefighters arrived
at the apartment, located near the Mahaneh Yehuda market, a little after 3 a.m.
A neighbor who shares a courtyard with the couple said he was awoken by screams
and saw 32-year-old Tegai Timrat run out of the apartment, engulfed in flames
and trying desperately to put them out.
Neighbors who were drawn to the
street by the screams were so shocked by the sight that it took a minute for one
neighbor to douse him with water, a witness said. Timrat received severe burns
on his arms and legs and his wife, who is six months’ pregnant, suffered smoke
They were both taken to Hadassah University Medical Center in
Firefighters immediately classified the fire as arson and
transferred suspicious materials, which they believe started the fire, to the
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police are
checking to see if Thursday’s attack was connected to a similar one on June 5, when arsonists tried to burn down a building housing 50 migrants on Jaffa Road,
also next to Mahaneh Yehuda and around 3 a.m., by starting a fire in the
stairwell. Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Asaf Abras said the June 5 fire
was a “death trap” that could have easily ended in major tragedy. Three people
received minor burns on their arms and legs.
A special unit comprised of
a dozen police investigators created to look into that attack will also
investigate Thursday’s fire.
Ben-Ruby said that police are examining all
avenues to identify the suspects.
The one-room apartment near Agripas
Street was completely blackened inside and the entrance was also covered in
soot. Neighbors and friends of the couple passed by during the morning,
expressing disbelief and disgust. A friend who came by to rescue some of the
family’s belongings left with only three plastic bags, since everything else was
Nicole, a neighbor who lives on the next street, said the
Eritrean couple were “quiet and amazing neighbors. I cried all night after
this,” she said. “There is nothing worse than this... nothing more
Nicole and her neighbors hypothesized that extremist haredim
could be responsible for the attack, but said there was no tension in the
neighborhood between the African migrants and their Israeli
Long-time resident Moshe Nakash said that while some people
may resent the large number of migrants in the neighborhood, there is no excuse
to take the law into their own hands.
“You don't need to hurt them
physically,” he said. “The law needs to take care of them. We know there are
planes going back [to repatriate some migrants]. If they’re harassing people,
then go to the police and police will take care of it.”
The second attack
shook the African migrant community in Jerusalem.
“I am really scared –
this is not a small thing, to burn someone’s house down,” said Bereket, an
Eritrean migrant who works at a computer store near the arson site, and did not
want to give his full name.
African migrants have reported being attacked
in a number of neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat. Assailants have
used a number of weapons to assault migrants, including rocks, bottles,
firecrackers and Molotov cocktails.
Just hours after the arson took
place, MK Danny Danon called for all migrants to be expelled from the
“Enough talk,” Danon said at a conference with south Tel Aviv
residents. “It is time for action.
Deport all of the infiltrators from
the State of Israel.”
Danon offered his preferred solution to the issue:
Israel must “build cities for infiltrators, finish construction of the fence
[along the Egyptian border] and expel all the infiltrators from Israel,” he
said. “Illegal infiltrators must have two statuses: Deported or awaiting
But the Likud MK rejected violence as a means of achieving
the deportation of the migrants.
“I condemn violence of any kind,” he
told the conference attendees.
Quoting Eritrean Ambassador Tesfamariam
Tekeste, Danon said “there is no danger in Eritrea.” In May, Tekeste denied
allegations that his country would kill illegal migrants if Israel would deport
them back to Eritrea.
“Citizens of Israel have turned into refugees in
their own homes, and the [African] refugees have become the permanent
residents,” Danon said.Yoni Dayan contributed to this report.