Brawl Breaks Out Between Armenian and Azerbaijani Supporters on Jerusalem Highway

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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A car displaying the Armenian flag on its hood, its windshield shattered in the midst of a brawl that broke out on an Israeli highway near Jerusalem, October 17, 2020
A car displaying the Armenian flag on its hood, its windshield shattered in the midst of a brawl that broke out on an Israeli highway near Jerusalem, October 17, 2020 Credit:
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

An altercation broke out on an Israeli highway on Saturday evening between Armenian and Azerbaijani supporters, following a demonstration in front of the Israeli Knesset earlier in the day in protest of the sale of Israeli weapons to Azerbaijan.

The attack took place on Saturday evening when about ten young men, apparently Jews of Azeri descent, stopped a group of protesters returning home from the Knesset protest earlier Saturday, via Route 1 (which runs between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv), and proceeded to attack them. Police were called to the scene, detained nine suspects for questioning and evacuated two individuals in need of medical treatment, said the police spokesperson's office in a statement it issued on Saturday evening.

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Credit: Armenian National Committee of Jerusalem

The Armenian National Committee of Jerusalem characterized the brawl as an "ambush" by an "Azerbaijaini mob" in a Facebook post on Saturday evening, together with video footage of the event.

This morning, a convoy comprised of hundreds of cars had set off for the Knesset protest from Haifa, Netanyahu and Jerusalem. Harut Bermian, the chairman of the committee said: "We are protesting against the sale of Israel's weapons to Azerbaijan. What annoys us is that during the war in Nagorno-Karabakh there are planes leaving Israel to transfer the weapons and these weapons are not used as a means of defense, but as an attack. Despite the agreement being for defensive use only. In the meantime, we have not heard any comment from the Israeli government on the issue and this is very upsetting to the Armenian community."

Earlier this month, on October 2, Armenia said it had recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations over Israeli arms sales to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan had acknowledged using Israeli-made weapons in its fighting with ethnic Armenian forces around Nagorno-Karabakh, where more than 600 civilians have died in over two weeks of deadly clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the region.

In response, Israel's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it regrets the Armenian decision, and stressed that "Israel values our partnership with Armenia." Israel and Azerbaijan have a strategic alliance going back many years. A major energy producer, Azerbaijan exports oil to Israel and imports weapons and military hardware. Azerbaijan is a secular Muslim republic, and this together with its geographical proximity to Iran, makes it very important to Israel.

The recent fighting that broke out on September 27 marks the biggest escalation of a decades-old conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which lies in Azerbaijan but has been under control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a separatist war in 1994. Despite a cease-fire deal signed last week, both sides have repeatedly accused each other of continued attacks in violation of the agreement.