Jerusalem: An Eritrean migrant shot by an Israeli security guard and then attacked by bystanders who mistook him for an assailant in a deadly bus station attack has died of his wounds, Israeli hospital officials said today. The mistaken shooting of the migrant, for reasons that remain unclear, seemed to capture the current climate of ratcheted up tensions among Israelis after months of seemingly random lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians.
“It’s terrible,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon. “It shows you what a terrible situation we are in.” The daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot left no ambiguity as to exactly why the man, identified as Mulu Habtom Zerhom, was shot. Monday’s headline read: “Just because of his skin color.”
Nitza Neuman-Heiman, deputy general director of Soroka Medical Center, told Army Radio that Zerhom arrived at the hospital in “very serious condition” and died late yesterday from both gunshot wounds and the injuries sustained during attacks 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 monthlong wave of violence. A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was killed and nine people were wounded when an Arab assailant armed with a gun and knife opened fire.
Israeli 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 as he lay in a pool of blood. A bench was rammed at him and he was kicked in the back of the head, as an Israeli officer and a few bystanders tried to protect him.
An Israeli identified only by the first name Dudu told Israeli Army Radio that he regretted participating in the attack on the Eritrean migrant. “I understood from people he was a terrorist. If I would have known he wasn’t a terrorist, believe me, I would have protected him like I protect myself,” he said. “I didn’t sleep well at night. I feel disgusted.”
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 organized militant groups, have unnerved Israel.