More than 100 injured as Eritrean refugees clash in Tel Aviv

Dozens of protesters and police officers were injured during a clash in Tel Aviv on Saturday as authorities attempted to disperse a protest involving asylum seekers from Eritrea living in the country. Photo by Atef Safadi/EPA-EFE

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Dozens of protesters and police officers were injured during street clashes in Tel Aviv on Saturday involving Eritreans living in Israel who support and oppose the East African country's governing regime.

At least 30 officers were among those hurt during the confrontations between police in riot gear and hundreds of asylum seekers from Eritrea, Israel's emergency medical services reported.

Of the 157 injuries, at least 13 were considered serious, including some gunshot wounds.

Israeli police confirmed they had made at least 39 arrests Saturday, with more expected.

Tel Aviv's Sheba Medical Center declared a mass-casualty event but officials have not confirmed any deaths from the event in the city with a population of around 500,000 people.

Hundreds of Eritreans seeking asylum converged on its embassy in Israel for a pro-government rally organized by the nation's government and clashes quickly ensued after anti-government Eritrean protesters arrived at the scene.

As the violence escalated, Israeli riot police and mounted units moved in and an "illegal gathering" was declared, allowing police to use force to disperse the crowd.

More than 25,000 refugees from the country currently live in Israel, according to international aid organization ASSAF.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 and the country has been ruled by President Isaias Afwerki since that time. Many Eritreans have left the country to avoid forced labor and military conscription imposed by the dictatorial regime.