Around 150 Israelis marched through a run-down Tel Aviv neighbourhood on Monday in protest at the alleged rape there of an 83-year-woman by an Eritrean man.
Protesters, led by MP Michael Ben-Ari and two of his far-right Strength to Israel party’s candidates for a January 22 general election, walked though gritty streets around a derelict central bus terminal, an area where many African migrants, particularly from Sudan and Eritrea, live.
The attack occured 10 days ago, but police only revealed the incident on Monday, when Tel Aviv magistrates extended the suspect’s remand. The suspect was arrested three days after the alleged rape.
“The old lady came out of her apartment building, which is adjacent to the old bus station, then he dragged her back into the hallway. He sexually abused her there, he raped her,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
Marchers chanted “The people want the Sudanese deported,” an AFP journalist at the scene reported. Some carried banners reading, “This is Israel, not Africa!”.
Israeli television said that an unusually large number of police had been on duty in case of public disorder on New Year’s eve, so many were deployed to escort the march. But there were no reports of incidents or arrests from the protest.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to repatriate tens of thousands of African illegal migrants and on Monday said that construction of a security fence along the desolate Sinai border with Egypt had halted the flow of Africans into the Jewish state.
“Last week, not one infiltrator crossed the border, for the first time since 2006,” a statement from his office said. “We have succeeded in blocking the phenomenon of illegal infiltrators,” it quoted Netanyahu as saying.
“At the same time, we are in the midst of the process of repatriating infiltrators to their countries of origin,” Netanyahu added.
The statement said that while 2,295 people crossed the border illegally in January only 36 got across in the first part of December.
It said that during 2012, 9,207 illegal immigrants left Israel, 3,920 of them from Africa.
Israel began constructing the fence in late 2010 to stem the influx of thousands of illegal migrants through the porous border.
Rising tensions over the growing number of illegal immigrants exploded into violence in May when a protest in south Tel Aviv turned ugly, with demonstrators smashing African shops and property, chanting “Blacks out!”