An apartment housing African migrants in Jerusalem went up in flames early Monday, with investigators suspecting the blaze may have been intentionally lit.
Graffiti was also found spray-painted above a door of the apartment saying “Get out of the neighborhood.”
Ten people were pulled out of the Jaffa Road apartment after the fire was reported just after 3 a.m. Monday. Four Eritreans were rushed to hospital for smoke inhalation and released.
Police said an initial investigation pointed to arson. “The police view this incident in a very harsh light and we are mobilizing all our forces to catch the culprits,” an official said.
The Foreign Ministry also released a condemnation of the incident, saying that “There is no justification to such a heinous crime that puts people’s lives in harm’s way.”
Anti-African immigrant violence has peaked in Israel in recent weeks as scores of people have rallied in Tel Aviv for the deportation of the estimated 60,000-70,000 African migrants living in the country without legal status.
This is the first time migrants have been targeted in Jerusalem, which is home to a small but growing African community, mostly centered near the city’s Mahane Yehuda outdoor market.
Most African migrants in Israel live in south Tel Aviv, with many also finding work in the southern resort town of Eilat.