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Israel Migrants Attacked: Arsonists Target African Migrants

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An African immigrant from Eritrea speaks with his mobile phone as he looks at the damage caused to his friend's apartment in central Jerusalem on July 12, 2012 after unknown attackers tried to burn it down overnight.  (GALI TIBBON/AFP/GettyImages)
An African immigrant from Eritrea speaks with his mobile phone as he looks at the damage caused to his friend's apartment in central Jerusalem on July 12, 2012 after unknown attackers tried to burn it down overnight. (GALI TIBBON/AFP/GettyImages)


JERUSALEM, July 12 (Reuters) - Unidentified arsonists set fire on Thursday to the Jerusalem home of Eritrean migrants, injuring three in what Israeli police said appeared to have been a racist attack.

Street violence has surged in recent months against Africans who cross, without permits, into Israel across the porous Egyptian border in search of work or asylum.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said an apartment in a west Jerusalem market district was set alight overnight, and that one Eritrean occupant suffered serious burns while two others were treated for smoke inhalation.

"Obviously it seems that they were targeted as Eritreans," Rosenfeld said, adding that an investigation was under way.

The Israeli firefighting service said two of the victims were a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy and her husband.

There are more than 60,000 African migrants in Israel, jarring its already ethnically fraught population of 7.8 million and prompting deportation drives by the conservative government.

Some Israelis see a demographic and economic crisis in the migrant influx, while others say the Jewish state, born after the Holocaust, has a responsibility to offer foreigners sanctuary. (Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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