Ashdod Police probing arson of apartment housing Sudanese

By
December 21, 2010 04:52

NGO volunteer: Locals feel threatened by migrants, regularly plot how to expel them from city.

2 minute read.



Sudanese refugees in Israel.

sudanese refugees 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)

Two days after unknown assailants attempted to torch an apartment in the city housing seven Sudanese migrants, Ashdod Police said Monday they were investigating all possible angles.

Police said they still didn’t have any suspects in the Saturday night arson, which left five of the seven migrants suffering from mild smoke inhalation.

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The ground floor apartment still showed signs of the fire on Monday, with the front porch and front door covered in soot. Inside the cramped, one-bedroom apartment, the soot ran across the ceiling and out toward a window where one of the residents cut his hand on Saturday as he broke both the window and its bars so the residents could flee.

In a puddle of water outside the window lay a melted and scorched tire, which the arsonists filled with flammable materials and set alight outside the front door of the apartment on Saturday.

One of the apartment’s residents, Muhammad, said he had only lived in the neighborhood a short time. He had no idea who would have tried to torch the house and wasn’t willing to speculate.

Outside a kiosk only steps away, its owner, a middle-aged woman who asked not to be named, said, “Whoever did this is sick. I’m here every day from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and I never hear from them [the Sudanese] at all, they never cause any problems.”

When asked if there was tension between the Sudanese and the local residents, she said, “These guys [in the burned apartment] have only been here two weeks. Who could have problems with them?” Though many of the Africans in Ashdod seemed reluctant to speak about whether or not there were tensions with the local Israelis, Daniel Campos, an Israeli who volunteers with the city’s African migrant community said there was clear underlying tension between the new arrivals and the locals living side by side in Ashdod’s poor and neglected Bet neighborhood.

“We’ve tried to get people to volunteer with us, but we usually get an aggressive response,” Campos said.

“You have a socially and economically weak local population of Russians and religious Jews, many of whom feel threatened by the refugees for one reason or another.”

Campos added that a group of neighborhood residents hold weekly meetings in which they discuss the migrants and reportedly try to find ways to expel them from the city.

The African migrant community in Ashdod numbers anywhere between 400 and 1,000 and does not receive anywhere near the support from NGOs that the communities in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem receive.

Like in other cities, the Africans live predominantly in poor, high-crime areas that are home to economically and socially disadvantaged populations.


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