Hundreds of members of Israel’s Ethiopian community and their supporters took to the streets across Israel on Monday, protesting the killing of an Ethiopian Israeli teenager by an off-duty policeman a day earlier.
The largest protest was taking place in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Ata, where more than 1,000 people had been blocking the Histadrut Junction since the morning hours.
Similar protests were taking place in Rehovot in central Israel and the southern cities of Be’er Sheva and Ashkelon. In Ashdod, protesters blocked the southern entrance to the city, as well as main roads in the area.
Solomon Tekah, 19, was shot dead Sunday evening in the Haifa suburb of Kiryat Haim by an off-duty police officer who pulled out his gun while trying to break up a street brawl.
The unnamed officer, who was walking with his family when the incident occurred, was detained and is currently under house arrest.
The policeman said that he opened fire due to concerns for his and his family’s safety.
Dozens of protesters also gathered Monday night outside the home of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in Kiryat Ono, near Tel Aviv.
The protesters held signs reading: “Solomon Tekah went off for his summer holiday and came back in a coffin” and “This was an extrajudicial execution.”
Demonstrations also took place in Rishon Letzion in central Israel and Netivot in the south.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday expressed regret over Tekah’s death, calling it a “tragic loss of life.”
“I spoke to the acting police commissioner (Moti Cohen) today, who promised me that we would make every effort to reach the truth as quickly as possible,” Netanyahu said.
“The Ethiopian community is dear to all of us. We have made great efforts in recent years to integrate it into Israeli society, and we still have much work to do.”
This is not the first time this year that a police officer has shot dead a member of the Ethiopian community, sparking mass protests.
In January, Yehuda Biagda, a 24-year-old man with mental health problems, was shot and killed in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv, by a policeman who said that he felt threatened by the knife that Biagda was wielding, although eyewitnesses said that the two were some distance apart when the police officer opened fire.
The policeman’s attorney said at the time that his client had opened fire as a “last resort”, while Biadga’s family strongly accused the officer of having “an easy hand on the trigger.”