The graffiti slogans that were sprayed onto an apartment building in Jerusalem, which was torched on Monday morning, called to deport the illegal migrants living in the area and sparked claims of racism. The writing called for migrants to "get out of the neighborhood."
However, the apartment's landlord insisted that this was just a "neighborhood feud and nothing more." He further denied receiving any threats concerning the apartment's Eritrean residents. "We'll fix up the place, so they can come back and live here," he clarified.
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Despite the fact that the initial investigation of the incident, in which four people were wounded, indicated arson, the landlord continued to insist that "the fire has nothing to do with the illegal immigrants living in the apartment."
Some have claimed that several residents of the ultra-Orthodox haredi community in the area were behind the attack.
One of the Eritrean migrants injured in the fire (Photo: Noam Dvir)
The landlord further denied receiving a specific threat from one of the business owner's in the area. According to the building owner, any accusations made concerning the conditions the migrants were living in, are completely baseless. "I've had tenants living in this building for decades without any complaints," he said.
The Jerusalem District Police said that the initial investigation indicated a racially-motivated attack.
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch addressed the incident during a ceremony honoring fallen police officers in Kiryat Ata: "These days the police is faced with additional challenges: Facing the wave of illegal infiltrators and their criminal activity, but no less serious are the statements made by public figures who can't shut their mouths and ride the wave of hatred and popularity to cover up their feeble performance over the years."
"I call on them to cease, otherwise they could lead us all to severe and needless violence as we witnessed last night with the torching of the apartment in Jerusalem," he added.
Former Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni also commented on the arson attack in Jerusalem. She wrote on her Facebook page that "the torching of the foreign workers' apartment in Jerusalem is intolerable and in contrast to Israel's values."
Livni added: "The State's duty is to handle the problem that emerged, especially in certain neighborhoods and cities in Israel, to block its border to labor migrants but not to be dragged to violence and racism."
Meanwhile, local haredim have flocked to the torched building on Jaffa Street, in order to observe the damage first hand. Some even encouraged the hateful act, saying that "these people take the law into their own hands."
Alula Debersai, 22, of Ethiopia, was injured in the fire: "I was in bed when suddenly one of the Eritrean's sleeping in the adjacent room started screaming. I tried to call the police but they didn't answer. I then broke the bedroom window and attempted to climb out, but the window was barricaded," he explained.
The scene (Photo courtesy of the Fire and Rescue Services)
"I then took a bucket and filled it with water in effort to extinguish the flames. It was completely dark and I fell and hurt my arm. When the ambulance came, the paramedics evacuated me to the nearest hospital," Debersai added.
Standing in an empty, charred kitchen, Debersai said: "We don't have anything left. It's all gone. I don't have any clothes or a blanket to sleep with."
Several local residents gave the migrants blankets, food and clothes. One of the migrants who was injured in the fire said that "the other tenants are afraid to come back."
One of the local business owner's said, "They (migrants) were living in sub-human conditions." He further said that the illegal migrants became a nuisance to some of the locals.
"They opened up a club and played loud music during the night. They were always drunk and eventually some of the religious neighbors began to complain. They warned the landlord not to rent them any apartments," he said.
The Foreign Ministry published a statement in which it condemned the arson attack, saying "there is no justification for this criminal act."
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