Israel facing copycat self-immolation attempts over economic woes

Updated: 2012-07-22 20:46:00

(Xinhua)

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JERUSALEM, July 22 (Xinhua) -- An Israeli man in his 40s set himself alight at an intersection in a town south of Tel Aviv on Sunday, in a growing number of such suicide attempts in recent weeks.

Pedestrians and drivers who spotted the man, who was laying alongside a wheelchair near the town of Yehud, rushed over to him and doused the flames with water, according to local Channel 2 television.

"There was a big traffic jam, and people were crowding around him," one eyewitness told Army Radio. "He was writhing on the ground, screaming in pain," he said.

Arriving medics estimated that the man sustained severe burns over 80 percent of his body, and evacuated him in critical condition under anesthesia to hospital.

On Saturday night, thousands of demonstrators held memorial rallies in several cities in identification with 57-year-old Moshe Silman, who passed away on Friday from self-inflicted burns in a similar self-immolation at a housing demonstration a week earlier.

Protesters carried signs denouncing Prime Minister Benjamin ( Bibi) Netanyahu, among them, with slogans, "Bibi, go home," "We are all Moshe Silman," and, "We will march until the corrupt government falls."

Since Silman's act, which took place at a Tel Aviv protest against government housing and welfare policies, at least four other individuals tried to set themselves on fire at a number of locations around the country in protest over self-described financial and housing predicaments.

The other cases, however, including one in front of Beersheba's City Hall, and another in front of a cellphone telco in a town near Tel Aviv, were foiled before a match was thrown, by either pedestrians or security personnel in the vicinity.

Local social welfare services said they were familiar with Silman's situation, and had endeavored to assist him. However, Silman, who was a stroke victim and heavily in debt, set himself on fire in protest against what he said was government indifference to his socioeconomic plight.

His associates charged that authorities did not provide appropriate housing and welfare assistance, adding that Silman was on the verge of becoming homeless.

"The State of Israel has robbed me," SIlman wrote in a suicide note listing his economic woes, that he distributed before his self-immolation.

Silman's funeral will be held on Sunday.

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