The Negev police on Monday instructed detectives to find suspects involved in the brutal beating of a wounded Eritrean asylum seeker apparently mistaken for a terrorist at the site of the deadly Beersheba terrorist attack.
The Eritrean man, Haptom Zarhum, 26, was declared dead at Soroka University Medical Center on Monday, the morning after he was shot and incapacitated by a security guard at the station who mistook him for a second attacker.
While lying on the floor he was beaten by a number of assailants, who kicked him in the head and tried to crush him with a bench.
Negev subdistrict police said in a statement on Monday that Dep.-Ch. Amnon Alkalai had instructed a special investigative unit to find the assailants “who brutally beat a foreigner after he had already been subdued and was lying on the floor and did not pose a danger at all.”
“The police view the incident with the utmost severity and will not allow civilians to take the law into their own hands,” the statement said.
Southern District Commander Asst.-Ch. Yoram Halevy said police “intend to investigate the matter and we intend to identify all those who attacked [Zarhum]. In the event that we identify them we will put them on trial.”
Police were awaiting the outcome of the autopsy to determine whether Zarhum was killed by the bullets or by the beating that took place after he was shot. They will also need to determine which bullets hit him and where, following reports a soldier and Border Police officer shot him in addition to the security guard.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said Monday regarding allegations a soldier had shot the man or taken part in the lynch that the Israel Police – not the Military Police – is handling the investigation. They would give no further details, citing a gag order on the case.
Ziad, a security guard, told reporters shortly after the shooting that he saw the “terrorist” crawling next to a wounded soldier. Thinking he was an attacker, he fired one round to wound him, Ziad said.
In the initial confusion, security services still thought they were dealing with the possibility of multiple attackers.
It was only hours later after searching in and around the bus station that they determined the attacker had acted alone. Not long after Zarhum was shot he was surrounded by police, security officers and a number of civilians.
In a number of videos posted online, civilians surrounding Zarhum can be seen shouting and cursing at him, while others were kicking and stomping on him. A couple of civilians try in vain to keep back the crowd, while others throw objects at Zarhum.
The mob beat Zarhum not long after a terrorist armed with a pistol and a knife stormed the Beersheba central bus station on Sunday night and shot and killed IDF Sgt. Omri Levy.
The terrorist then snatched Levy’s rifle and shot and wounded at least 10 Israelis – including several police officers – before he was shot dead by police. An unidentified man who looked like an Ethiopian told reporters after the beating that “I caught the man and I gave him a few punches to the face.”
Holding up a blood soaked hand he added: “I’m covered in blood, and I hope that he is dead.”
An employee at a shwarma stand named David Moyal admitted in an interview with Ch. 2 on Monday, that he threw the bench onto Zarhum.
Moyal said he deeply regrets what he did and is very stressed out over it.
“With the fear you don’t know what to do so you overcome the fear and then do what I did but unfortunately he wasn’t a terrorist,” Moyal said.
People cannot take the law into their own hands, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday after Zarhum was killed. Netanyahu sent his condolences to Zarhum’s family, along with that of Levy, the soldier who was killed by the terrorist. “We are a country of laws,” Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting. “People should not take the law into their own hands.”
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman thought Zarhum’s death was the government’s fault, and also called on people not to take the law into their own hands. “What happened was wrong. It was because of the anarchy; people are afraid,” Liberman said at his faction’s meeting.
Yesh Atid faction chairman Ofer Shelah said he is ashamed of those who attacked Zarhum.
“It should be clear. The security guard shot him as part of his responsibility to defend civilians, and should not be condemned for misidentification. However, because the rioters thought he was a terrorist, we must remember the moral principle that every IDF soldier is taught: After the enemy is neutralized and is no longer a danger, he should not be harmed,” Shelah said.
“If we do not maintain our moral advantage and humanity, the terrorists won.”
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On called on Netanyahu to bring calm and blamed the attack on politicians calling on civilians to carry guns.
“The finger must not only be pointed at those who lost their humanity yesterday in the bus station. The lynchers did not act in a vacuum,” she said.
“When the defense minister calls on civilians to carry weapons, when the education minister is photographed like a cowboy with a gun on his belt...it is hard to be surprised when reality turns into the Wild West.”
The Joint List said it “condemned the cruel lynch of the Eritrean asylum seeker, a result of an atmosphere of incitement and fear.”