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Israel: two die following self-immolation protest over rising cost of living

Separate fatal protests amid renewed opposition to escalating costs and Israeli government’s budget cuts.

15 July: Israelis block a highway during protests against the govt's economic policies.
15 July: Israelis block a highway during protests against the govt's economic policies.
Image: Oded Balilty/AP/Press Association Images

A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND Israeli who set himself alight over the spiralling cost of living died of his injuries, medics said on Wednesday, raising to two the number of Israelis who have died in such protests.

A spokesman for Tel HaShomer hospital near Tel Aviv said Akiva Mafi, 45, died of injuries sustained on July 22, in a development two days after the government voted through a harsh package of austerity measures likely to further hit the underprivileged.

“Akiva Mafi has died as a result of his burns,” a spokesman for the hospital said on Israel’s army radio.

Mafi sustained burns on 80 per cent of his body after he doused himself in petrol and set himself alight as he waited for an early morning bus, just two days after the death of a man who set himself on fire a week earlier during a mass protest against the cost of living.

Moshe Silman, who died on July 20, was the first Israeli to take such an extreme step in a move which has prompted at least six copycat actions.

In a letter he read out before setting himself alight, Silman accused the Israeli establishment of “taking from the poor and giving to the rich.”

On Sunday, Israel approved a package of sweeping austerity measures it said were essential to cut the budget deficit and shield the economy from crises which have rocked other economies.

Central to the plan are hikes in income and sales taxes, as well as a 700-million-shekel (€140 million) cut to the 2012 state budget.

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The steps are likely to increase already widespread anger over the soaring cost of living in the Jewish state, which saw mass protests sweeping the country last summer.

There have been renewed protests this year.

- (c) AFP, 2012

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