shapira - Daniel Bar-On - April 29, 2012
Protests after a firebomb attack in south Tel Aviv, April 29, 2012 Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Two firebombs were hurled on Saturday night at a house in south Tel Aviv. No injuries were reported, but police are investigating whether the incident is connected to a similar attack a week and a half ago that targeted African residents.

Last week, a man was arrested on suspicion of throwing Molotov cocktails in the Shapira neighborhood in south Tel Aviv. The first report was received by police at 1 A.M. Slight damage was caused to an exterior wall of the building.

While police and fire services were on their way to the scene, reports were received of two similar incidents nearby. A Molotov cocktail was thrown toward a residential building in the neighborhood and another toward a public park where African migrants stay.

A day later, about 200 people converged in south Tel Aviv to express solidarity with African asylum seekers living in the area. The demonstrators, carrying signs with anti-racism messages, were met by dozens of area residents, some of whom tore the signs and cursed out the activists. Police officers dispatched to the scene separated the groups, who continued to shout at each other from opposite sides of the street as a few dozen African nationals watched from a distant street corner.

Tension between the long-standing Israeli residents of south Tel Aviv and the foreign refugees, asylum seekers and labor migrants now living alongside them, is not new. According to the Interior Ministry's population registry, in 2011 more than 17,000 unauthorized foreign nationals - mostly from Sudan and Eritrea - sneaked into Israel through the border with Egypt. After their identities are checked at Ketziot Detention Center, most are bused to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station area, in the south of the city.

City officials estimate that around 40,000 labor migrants and more than 20,000 asylum seekers live in south Tel Aviv. Most live in the disadvantaged Shapira, Hatikva, Neve Sha'anan and Kiryat Shalom neighborhoods, as well as the area surrounding the bus station.