'Eritrean killed because gun-toting government officials turned Israel into Wild West'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urges citizens not to take the law into their own hands.

October 19, 2015 17:28
2 minute read.

Israeli crowd beat Eritrean migrant mistakenly identified as Palestinian shooter

Israeli crowd beat Eritrean migrant mistakenly identified as Palestinian shooter


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Politicians from across the political spectrum condemned on Monday the lynch of an Eritrean migrant by a mob in Beersheba who thought he was a terrorist.

Netanyahu sent his condolences to Habtom Zerhom's family, along with that of 19-year-old soldier Omri Levi, who was murdered by a Beduin terrorist.

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"We are a country of rule of law," Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting. "People should not take the law into their own hands."

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman said Zerhom's death is the government's fault, also calling 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 that he is ashamed of the Israelis who attacked Zerhom.

"It should be clear. The security guard shot him as part of his responsibility to defend civilians, and should not be condemned for misidentifying [Zerhom's]. 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 win," he added.

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."

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) wrote a letter to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, asking that he order an immediate investigation of the attack, pointing out that the attackers were caught on security cameras.

"I understand the public's great anger and pain, but it is unthinkable that one would harm a helpless person lying on the ground. Such behavior is immoral and inhumane and not Jewish," he stated.

The Joint List "condemned the cruel lynch of the Eritrean asylum-seeker, a result of an atmosphere of incitement and fear."

Zerhom was beaten not long after a terrorist armed with a pistol and a knife stormed the Beersheba central bus station on Sunday night, killing IDF soldier Sergeant Omri Levy, then snatching his rifle and shooting and wounding at least 10 Israelis before being shot dead by police.

During the attack, armed security personnel mistook Zerhom for a second terrorist and one guard opened fire, wounding him. Not long after Zarhum was surrounded by police, security officers, and a number of civilians. In videos posted online afterwards, civilians can be seen yelling at him and cursing at him, and some also beating him, while a couple civilians try in vain to keep back the crowd.

Ben Hartman contributed to this report.

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