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Akiva Mafi Dead: Israeli Who Set Self On Fire Over Welfare Battle Dies In Hospital

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AKIVA MAFI DEAD
People try to extinguish the fire after a man set himself alight in Tel Aviv, Israel on Saturday, July 14, 2012 during rally marking the anniversary of a wave of demonstrations that swept the country to protest the high cost of living and other social issues. (AP Photo/Ben Kelmer) | AP


JERUSALEM, Aug 1 (Reuters) - An Israeli who set himself on fire in protest at economic difficulties has died of his injuries, the hospital treating him said on Wednesday, the second such death in a few days.

Akiva Mafi, a 45-year-old, wheelchair-bound army veteran, doused his body in petrol and lit it at a bus station on July 22, after what friends described as a debilitating battle for welfare benefits.

He was the second such fatality after Moshe Silman, a debt-ridden member of a grassroots movement calling for lower living costs, self-immolated during a July 14 demonstration in Tel Aviv and died two weeks later.

Silman, 57, left a note accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government of "taking from the poor and giving to the rich". Local media reported similar suicide bids among others suffering economic hardship.

In response to the deaths, activists announced plans to hold a demonstration in Tel Aviv later this week "as a shout-out against economic hardship leading some to suicide."

Speaking on Israeli television after his cabinet approved a new package of tax increases and spending cuts on Tuesday, Netanyahu described the self-immolations as tragic but cautioned against "drawing conclusions about the overall populace," which he argued had been spared deeper fiscal crises. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Robin Pomeroy)