Man killed by mob after Israel bus attack

An Eritrean refugee shot by an Israeli security guard and then attacked by bystanders who mistook him for an assailant in a fatal bus station attack has died.

The mistaken shooting of the asylum-seeker, identified as Mulu Habtom Zerhom, reflects the nervousness among Israelis after months of seemingly random lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians.

Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said: “It’s terrible. It shows you what a terrible situation we are in.”

The daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot included the headline ‘Just because of his skin colour’.

Dr Nitza Neuman-Heiman, deputy general director of Soroka Medical Centre, told Army Radio that Zerhom arrived at the hospital in “very serious condition” and died late on Sunday from gunshot wounds and the injuries inflicted by bystanders. The hospital said he suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen.

The attack, at the central bus station in the southern city of Beersheba, was among the bloodiest in a month-long wave of violence.

A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was killed and nine people wounded when an Arab assailant armed with a gun and knife opened fire.

News websites posted security camera footage that shows Zerhom, crawling on the floor and a security guard shooting him. Footage also showed a mob of shouting Israelis crowded around the man. The man was attacked as an Israeli officer and some bystanders tried to protect him.

Police are seeking to arrest those Israeli civilians who “aggressively beat” and kicked the Eritrean man “while he lay on the floor and posed no threat”, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

During a month of violence, nine Israelis and the Eritrean have been killed in a wave of shootings and stabbings by Palestinian assailants. Forty-one Arabs — including 20 identified by Israel as attackers — have been killed, with the rest dying in clashes with Israeli troops.

The attacks, carried out seemingly randomly by attackers with no known membership to organised militant groups, have unnerved Israel.

Zerhom was in Beersheba to renew his Israeli visa, his employer at a plant nursery, Sagi Malachi, told Army Radio. About 34,000 Eritrean migrants are in Israel. Israel does not grant them refugee status, but does not deport them to Eritrea in line with international law.

“The death of an asylum seeker at the hands of security guards and an angry mob is a tragic but foreseeable outgrowth of a climate in which some Israeli politicians encourage citizens to take the law into their own hands,” said Sari Bashi of Human Rights Watch.

Israeli police identified the assailant as 21-year-old Mohannad al-Okbi, an Arab citizen of Israel.


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