Israeli mob attacks dying Eritrean refugee after soldier is killed

Warning: This article contains video and images of extreme violence.

A gunman opened fire at the central bus station in Bir al-Saba (Beer Sheva), a city in the south of present-day Israel, on Sunday evening, killing an Israeli soldier and wounding up to 11 other people.

The assailant shot and killed a soldier and then “snatched his M-16 rifle” before opening fire on the others, most of whom were “members of Israel’s security forces,” Israel’s Ynet reportedWalla! News reported that four of the injured were soldiers.

Israeli police shot and killed the assailant.

Israeli media named the dead soldier as 19-year-old Sergeant Omri Levi. He was a member of the Israeli army’s Golani brigade.

There has been confusion and contradictory reports regarding the identity of the assailant.

Both Reuters and Ynetciting Palestinian media, claimed he was Isam al-Araj from Shuafat, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem whose Palestinian residents have frequently been targeted with violence by Israeli occupation forces and settlers. This information had not been confirmed by any official source. It was also not apparent which Palestinian media had reported the claim.

The Jerusalem Post later claimed that the Israeli army had named the attacker as Muhannad Al-Okabi, from the Bedouin town of Hura in the southern Naqab (Negev) region of present-day Israel. The same name was reported in other Israeli media, including Maariv.

Death-chanting mob

During the incident, a security guard shot 29-year-old Haftom Zarhum, an Eritrean refugee who was “misidentified” as a “terrorist,” according to Haaretz.  Zarhum later died of his injuries.

Zarhum came to Beer Sheva on Sunday to procure a visa.

Video captured by bystanders and posted to social media shows a mob of onlookers, including Israeli soldiers and police, kicking Zarhum in the head, pinning him under a chair and throwing a bench at him as he writhes on the floor, clearly in pain and bleeding severely.

Voices from the crowd can be heard chanting for Zarhum’s death, shouting “mehabel” (terrorist), “Kill him!” and “Break his head! Break his head! Son of a prostitute!”

Ynet reported that medics trying to evacuate Zarhum “ran into objection from the crowds at the scene, who blocked their way and called out ‘Death to Arabs,”Arabs out!’ and ‘Am Israel Chai’ (‘The people of Israel still live’).”

Haaretz correspondent Chaim Levinson tweeted a statement from an Israeli police spokesperson implying Zarhum might have been shot because of his race.

“I haven’t touched a word. The Police spokesman’s (Negev region) statement: One of the wounded persons, who was shot by security forces, is a foreign citizen; at the moment it is not clear if he is involved with the event or if he was shot due to his exterior appearance,” Levinson wrote.

Non-Jewish refugees from African states regularly experience extreme racism and hostility in Israel.

Israeli leaders have labeled them a “demographic threat” to Israel’s Jewish majority, as they have Palestinians. They are at constant risk of indefinite detention and deportation.

During preliminary questioning, the security guard who shot Zarhum was quoted by the Israeli news site Maariv, stating: “I was sure he was the terrorist, he wasn’t hiding like everyone else.”

“I saw him running toward me and not hiding like the others, so I shot him,” added the security guard.

However, another video of the incident, widely shared on social media, appears to show the shooting of Zarhum. It flatly contradicts the security guard’s account.

In the video, a man can be seen crawling on all fours, clearly posing no threat to anyone and likely trying to escape to safety, when a man with a handgun approaches and shoots him.

The shooting victim is then seen writhing on the floor in a similar position to the video showing Zarhum being attacked by the mob.

In both videos, the shooting victim is lying near the set of orange chairs used to attack Zarhum and near a dark line on the floor.

No one offers him medical assistance.

There have been other recent examples of such lynch mob behavior, including before and after the summary execution of Fadi Alloun, a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, on 4 October. These mob killings come amid a growing chorus of incitement by Israeli leaders, who have openly encouraged vigilante revenge against Palestinians following stabbing attacks that have left seven Israelis dead.

Last week, a video captured Israelis screaming “Die you son of a prostitute!” at Ahmad Manasra as the Palestinian 13-year-old lay covered in blood and gasping on the ground. The boy and his cousin Khalid Manasra who was killed, were accused of involvement in a stabbing that injured two Israelis in the settlement of Pisgat Zeev.

Since 1 October Israeli forces have killed at least 42 Palestinians, many in what nine human rights groups condemned as “extrajudicial killings” of alleged attackers and Palestinian demonstrators. 

Gag order

The Israeli government has placed a gag order on all aspects of the police investigation into the bus station attack until 18 November.

The gag order, which was leaked on social media, prohibits media from sharing “any detail about the investigation,” “any detail that could identify the suspects,” and “the fact of the existence of the investigation.” 

The Israeli news site Walla! News confirmed that a “sweeping gag order” was in effect.

The withholding of the gunman’s identity and the subsequent gag on any details that could identify him is peculiar. The Israeli government typically wastes no time publicizing the name, possible criminal record and political affiliation of suspected Palestinian attackers. Whatever the reason, the details will emerge soon enough.

What is also all but certain is that the Israelis who attacked and perhaps ultimately killed Zarhum are not likely to held accountable. Their families will not be subjected to punitive home demolitions and other forms of collective punishment that Israel reserves exclusively for Palestinians.

Dena Shunra provided Hebrew translation and Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.

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Comments

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Do you realize that you are deflecting the responsibility of the terrorist from this whole scenario. Do you realize that if a terrorist didn't come in an shoot up the place everyone at the bus station would still be alive?

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Do YOU REALIZE that if racist, genocidal, ethnic cleansing fascist Zionist Israel had ended its six decades of brutal, lawless, murderous forced military occupation of Palestine's Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank that the thousands upon thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis would be alive today? DO YOU REALIZE THAT, DEFLECTION! Your own president Rivlin has labeled Israel a SICK SOCIETY! LET THE TRUTH BE TOLD!

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Do you realize that if Palestinians didn't live under racist colonial occupation then everyone at the bus station would still be alive?

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After watching the first video several times, it looks as though the man with the chair is trying to keep the mob away from this poor victim? When they come close he holds his hand up to keep them back. I want to believe in this horrible madness, that there are a few Israeli's that want to help and do what they can, even in the midst of their own peoples insanity. Sadness for this victim and all of Palestine's children. And I agree about the questionable scrutiny of this gag order...normally they have Palestinian in red lights in the first sentence. Always before a so-called 'right to defense' there is a false flag to justify it.

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I dont see it as deflecting at all. Its clear that a crazed person set all those tragic events in motion by opening fire.

But lets not be dense. The angry, ALSO crazed mob wasted no time in HORRIFICALLY and tragically dispatching this young man's life!!! While a mass shooting is no doubt traumatic, it appears that something like this was likely to occur sooner or later. It is clearly stated that along with Palestinians, non-jewish African blacks face frequent violence and deportation.

It is unfortunate and tragic what occurred with the mass shooter, but at least as tmuch if not more so what then happened to this innocent youth, as he was clearly racially profiled and was attacked in such an animalistic way!

Both are tragic, but only one, the first, is being reported to the media. The other is on a 30 day gag order so this author is simply trying to get the facts out about the second incident.

Ali Abunimah's picture

The tweet with the image of the gag order was deleted. We do have a copy of it. As noted, it was also mentioned by Walla. It would appear to have been lifted.

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OCTOBER, 2000 SET THE PRECEDENT FOR IMPUNITY, WHICH PERMITS SETTLERS, THE IDF, BORDER GUARDS, SOLDIERS, POLICE - TO TAKE THE LIFE OF A PALESTINIAN WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST CONCERN ABOUT PROSECUTION

IN OCTOBER 2000, THIRTEEN ARAB CITIZENS OF ISRAEL WERE SHOT DEAD BY POLICE GUNFIRE, INCLUDING SNIPER FIRE. NO ONE WAS EVER PUNISHED.

In October, 2000, these 13 killings of Israeli citizens, albeit Palestinians, were so shicking that the Israeli government established an official commission of inquiry, led by Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or.

Acknowledging the historical discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel the Or Commission concluded in its 2003 report:

1. there was no justification for the police to have used snipers and to have fired live and rubber bullets against the Palestinian citizens,

2. nor was there was any threat in any of the cases to justify the resort to lethal fire against citizens.

3. the State of Israel must give "true equality to the country’s Arab citizens."

Despite the Or Commission findings, no prosecutions of the perpetrators of the lethal police violence has taken place and "true Equality" has eluded Palestinian citizens of Israel.

In September 2005, the Or Commission was simply set aside when "the Israel Police’s internal investigations division (“Mahash”) decided not to pursue any indictments against any officers or commanders. Later in January 2007, the attorney general also closed the investigations into the killings.

"Thus rather than prosecuting those responsible for the crimes, the state created a shield of impunity to help the perpetrators evade punishment. To this day, despite the Or Commission’s specific recommendations, not a single police officer or official has been indicted for the killings.

"By refusing to set a firm precedent for the October events, the state effectively gave the green light for the police to continue employing brutality against Palestinian citizens, while

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It looks like the guy holding the chair is actually using the chair to protect Zarhum from attack. Likewise the armed police officer looks to be trying to protect Zarhum from the mob.

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An historian once observed: "When his present-day followers tell us that
that [V. Jabotinsky] was a Zionist hero, a nation-builder required to use
the powers that be for his purpose , all they are doing, actuality, is giving
us advance warning that they, like him, are prepare
as well.d to betray humanity for the sake of their Zionist state."---Lenni Brenner in THE IRON WALL... p. 52. As was inevitable all of Zionist/Israel has morphed into Jabotinsky's (and others) revolution of the right. The US has chosen to betray humanity as was predictable. Thus reports in the US
consistently blame the victim never mentioning the many decades of Zionist
oppression still ongoing.---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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A society based on racist, supremacist and exclusionary "principles" is going to yield such results and occurrences.

If one says it one time or a thousand times. Zionism must end. It is racist and it is wrong.

Time for all the families of the victims of the 1940's pogroms to return.

No Equality, No Peace!

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To "Zionism Not Juaism" and likeminded:

If you have not already read Brenner's THE IRON WALL I urge
you to do so. (available at public libraries). It is easy to read and
provides much factual data. (Much will have to be filled in---updated---
to bring Zionism's history up to present time).

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek's picture

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.