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Eritreans in Israel help collect clothes for victims

Palestinians inspect damages in the aftermath of Israeli strikes, following a Hamas surprise attack, at Beach refugee camp, in Gaza City, October 9, 2023. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Eritrean Halofom Sultan, 43, who lives in Tel Aviv, has been part of a group from his community helping collect clothes, water and essential items for those in southern Israel affected by the conflict there.

He told the BBC that he hopes actions like this will help Israelis have a different view of Eritreans living in Israel.

In September, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “a red line” had been crossed after 170 people were injured during violent clashes between politically opposed groups of Eritreans living in Tel Aviv.

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“Many Israelis see us as dangerous people and have negative attitude towards African refugees. But the participation of the Eritrean community with the Israeli activities may have a positive impact.”

In 2018, Mr Sultan served as the chairperson of the Community of Eritrean Asylum Seekers in Israel, an organisation set up to support Eritreans at a time when the Israeli government was planning to deport African migrants under a scheme called the Procedure for Deportation to Third Countries.

He said he was woken on Saturday morning to the sound of sirens blaring across Tel Aviv.

“I heard the… bombardment. It was shocking. Then I looked at my phone to see the news.”

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Mr Sultan said that while sirens were going off in Tel Aviv, he received a call from a fellow national living in Rehovot, to the south.

“He was telling his children to take shelter. I could hear from his phone the sound of sirens and two rockets landing there at the same time.”

Reading about hostages being taken, Mr Sultan contacted other Eritreans living in Ashkelon, near the border with Gaza.

He says so far he hasn’t heard of any Eritreans who have been kidnapped or killed.

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The UN’s refugee agency estimates there are more than 53,000 asylum seekers in Israel, the vast majority of them being from Eritrea and Sudan.

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