Israeli who set himself on fire at Tel Aviv protest critical

Israeli who set himself on fire at Tel Aviv protest critical

An Israeli demonstrator was hospitalized in critical condition after setting himself on fire during a cost-of-living protest in Tel Aviv, Israel Radio reported Sunday.

Moshe Silman, believed to be in his 50s, suffered third-degree burns to 80-90 per cent of his body from his act of self-immolation on Saturday, and is unconscious on a respirator in intensive care at Tel Aviv's Tel Hashomer-Sheba hospital, the station said.

The hospital spokesman was not immediately available, DPA reported.

The incident occurred during a Saturday night demonstration in Tel Aviv against the high cost of living in Israel.

Some 2,000 people took to Tel Aviv streets again Sunday night in solidarity with Silman, protesting in front of government offices and blocking a traffic artery in the city centre, witnesses said. Police prevented them from breaking into the Social Security building in the area.

Several dozen people protested in Jerusalem, as well as in the southern city of Beersheba, where protesters symbolically set fire to a doll.

Friends and relatives said Silman committed the act out of financial despair, after social services failed to deal with sufficient urgency with his request for housing aid.

Witnesses said the man arrived at the Saturday night demonstration carrying flammable liquid in a bottle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday spoke of a "great personal tragedy" and asked the welfare and housing ministry to look into his case.

Up to 20,000 people rallied Saturday night in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba to mark one year since the start of socio-economic protests against Israel's cost of living, especially housing.

Most marched in two locations in Tel Aviv.

Massive protests against high prices first erupted in mid-July 2011, when activists pitched tents in Tel Aviv's upmarket Rothschild Boulevard. Tent encampments sprang up all over the country.

Weekly Saturday night demonstrations peaked in September, when more than 400,000 people marched country-wide in what was said to be the biggest social protest in Israeli history.

Netanyahu, who has to balance his free-market ideology with the protesters' demands, appointed a committee headed by respected economist Manuel Trajtenberg to look into the issues.

The protests were suspended during the winter. Activists have tried to revive the movement during the summer but without the same mass success. A new protest camp on a green patch near Tel Aviv's railway station has so far attracted only a few dozen tents.

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