Eritrean migrant, mistaken for terrorist, killed in Beersheba attack


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police shot and killed an Eritrean migrant mistaken for a second assailant in a terror attack at the Beersheba bus station.

The attacker, Bedouin-Israeli Mouhand al-Okbi, 21, entered the bus station on Sunday night armed with a handgun and a knife. He stabbed a soldier and grabbed his M-16 rifle, then opened fire. The soldier, identified as Omri Levi of Moshav Sde Hemed, in central Israel, was shot and killed in the attack.

The migrant, Haftom Zarhum, 29, was also shot by police and died hours later at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba. Video images show him lying in a pool of his own blood being kicked by bystanders who thought he was an assailant. Ten people were wounded in the terror attack.

Israel Police said Monday that they would investigate the erroneous shooting of Zarhum and the attack by civilians. Israeli media charged that he was shot solely due to the color of his skin.

Also Monday, police named Al-Okbi, an Israeli citizen from Hura, a town located near Beersheba, as the sole attacker. He did not have a criminal record.

Al-Okbi’s mother is originally from the Gaza Strip and moved to Israel after she married an Arab-Israeli citizen, according to the Shin Bet security service. At least one member of al-Okbi’s family has been arrested for collaborating with him, according to reports.

A statement posted on the Israel Police website said the attack on the downed man was a “very grave” incident and that it would “not allow citizens to take the law into their own hands.” The police statement also called on citizens to “act with restraint and extra caution and to allow the police to perform their job.”

The statement also said that police would attempt to identify the citizens who attacked Zarhum and bring them in for questioning.

The commander of the Southern District Police, Maj.-Gen. Yoram Halevy, met Monday with leaders of the Bedouin community in southern Israel. Halevy praised the “coexistence between Jewish and Bedouin citizens living side by side” in the Negev and said that it “must be preserved at all costs.”

Bedouin leaders condemned the attack, and said that incidents of violence and terrorism involving members of the Bedouin community are “wrong, unacceptable and harmful.”

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