08/01/2012, 00.00
ISRAEL

Tel Aviv, disabled veteran dies after self immolation protest against high cost of living

Akiva Mafi, 45, had burns on 80% of his body. He died this morning at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, after 10 days of agony. He is the second Israeli to set himself on fire in protest against the austerity movement launched by the Netanyahu government.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The disabled veteran who set himself on fire last July 22 in protest against the high cost of living and social injustice in Israel died today. Akiva Mafi, 45, had burns on 80% of the body and was hospitalized at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv.

The man had lived in a wheelchair since the age of 23 because of an injury suffered during military service and received a government subsidy for the disabled, but a few months ago found himself in serious financial straits.

Mafi is the second Israeli to self-immolate after Moshe Silman, a businessman of 57, who ended up on the streets because of a debt contracted with the government. Both were protesting against the recent austerity measures launched by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, that have led to heavy cuts to social security, wage reductions and tax increases. The authorities have reduced spending for 2012 by over 140 million euros.

In mid-July he had participated in demonstrations against cuts to the disabled veterans' social security. After his self-immolation, Udi Shani, Israeli Minister of Defense, has promised the creation of a special unit dedicated to the needs of veterans with disabilities.

The deaths of the two men have aroused strong controversy and criticism among the general population, who consider such acts a sign of the serious conditions prevailing in the country. Students and activists have organized a protest march for August 4 next against the high cost of living and high unemployment. The demonstration takes place exactly one year after the 2011 protests that drew thousands of people onto the streets.

 

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