Ben Gvir calls to detain without trial, deport Eritreans linked to Netanya killing

Deadly stabbing follows several other violent incidents since mass brawl in Tel Aviv last month between supporters and opponents of the Eritrean regime

Cnaan Lidor is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

File - Police inspect the scene of riots where one person died and several were seriously injured in fight between Eritreans, in Netanya, Israel on September 30, 2023. (Flash90)
File - Police inspect the scene of riots where one person died and several were seriously injured in fight between Eritreans, in Netanya, Israel on September 30, 2023. (Flash90)

Public Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said Sunday that he would incarcerate without trial and push to deport suspects in the slaying of an Eritrean man in Netanya the day before.

The deadly stabbing Saturday occurred during a fight between Eritrean migrants, nine of whom were hurt, including a man who was severely wounded. The violence appeared to be an extension of a massive brawl last month in Tel Aviv between supporters and opponents of the regime of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. The stabbing in Netanya also came a day after similar fighting in Tel Aviv left 10 wounded, including one person with life-threatening injuries.

The string of incidents has brought attention to the roughly 20,000 Eritreans who are living in Israel, after entering it illegally before the completion of a barrier along the Egyptian border in 2012. Israeli governments have taken a series of measures — some of which were blocked by the courts — to encourage the migrants, many of whom contend they are refugees from war and oppression, to leave the country.

”The rioting by illegal immigrants in our cities is a very serious event and therefore the police commissioner and I have agreed to continue to apply administrative detention to suspects evidentially connected to the murder,” Ben Gvir said in a statement.

“As far as I am concerned, they should be deported, of course, but if the High Court blocks this, the rioters should at least be in prison,” he added.

Administrative detention, a controversial practice used primarily for Palestinian terror suspects, allows authorities to detain suspects without charging them. The statement from Ben Gvir, a far-right leader who has pushed to expand use of the practice, did not say whether any of those arrested in Netanya were being held under administrative detention.

Last month, 53 people arrested in connection to the September 2 rioting in Tel Aviv were placed under administrative detention, with Ben Gvir vowing to deport anyone determined to have been involved in the violence. His office did not immediately reply to a query by The Times of Israel on whether anyone connected to the mass brawl has been deported.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visits south Tel Aviv on September 3, 2023, a day after Eritrean migrants rioted in the area. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“Last night’s exceptional violence crossed all the red lines. Most rioters came from outside Netanya to escalate the riot that began in Tel Aviv. We will end violence by illegal immigrants with an iron fist,” Netanya Mayor Miriam Miriam Fierberg-Ikar, a member of the ruling Likud party, said in a statement on Sunday. “I urged the government to reconsider its treatment of foreign workers who permit themselves to riot and act violently.”

Mayor of Netanya Miriam Feirberg poses for a picture, in Netanya, on March 6, 2017. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A witness to Saturday’s brawl in Netanya told the Israel Hayom daily the confrontation began with a targeted attack on the man who was killed. Unidentified assailants assaulted him with knives as he was celebrating a family event, said the woman, who spoke to the newspaper under the condition of anonymity,

Police fired warning shots after a group of men approached patrol officers who arrived on the scene, the police spokesperson’s unit said. Police have detained six people in Netanya since the stabbing.

On Friday, police detained 15 Eritreans in Tel Aviv’s Hatikvah neighborhood, an impoverished residential area in the city’s south where many migrants live. A brawl between supporters and opponents of the regime in Eritrea occurred there too, police said.

Another immigrant, from Sudan, was shot dead on Friday night in southern Tel Aviv. The victim, 31, is believed to have been executed in a score-settling action between rival gangs, a police source told Israel Hayom.

Eritrean protesters clash with Israeli riot police in Tel Aviv, September 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

On September 25, a man in his fifties was killed in a stabbing attack that appears to have been a political assassination over his opposition to Afwerki’s regime, the Kan public broadcaster Kan reported. Several men ambushed the man, who has two children in Israel and another three in Eritrea, on the street and stabbed him to death.

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