Beersheba Attack: Eritrean Mistaken for Terrorist Is Shot, Beaten

by Yael Factor, Paul Goldman and Cassandra Vinograd /  / Updated 

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TEL AVIV — An Eritrean man was shot in a case of mistaken identity and then beaten by a mob as a terror attack unfolded in southern Israel, officials said Monday.

One Israeli soldier was killed and several others were wounded when gunshots broke out late Sunday night in a bus station in the southern city of Beersheba. Officials initially said there were two gunmen — one had been killed, the other wounded and captured.

Police said Monday that Abtum Zarhum — an Eritrean national in his 20s — was shot by a security guard who mistakenly thought he was a terrorist, then beaten by Israelis in the bus station. Zarhum later succumbed to his wounds, and police said an investigation is underway to bring those who beat him to justice.

Image: Beersheba attack
A woman is comforted at the main bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba on Sunday.DUDU GRINSHPAN / AFP via Getty Images

The victim's employer Sagi Malachi said his staff was in shock over the death of the young man they knew as Mila Abtum.

"Mila was a good person, humble and quiet ... that tried to always do his best at work," Malachi, who owns a nursery, told Israeli Army radio. "From what I know Mila was there in order to renew his visa and was on his way back here to work... but he never arrived."

An Israeli eyewitness to the beating — identified only as Dudu — told Israeli Army radio that it was "very difficult to know who is who" as the attack unfolded.

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"If I would have known he is not the terrorist believe me I would have guarded him like I look after myself," Dudu said. "In moments of fear people do things they are not aware of. I didn't sleep all night… I feel disgusted with what happened."

Police identified the sole assailant as Mohand al-Okabi, a 21-year-old Bedouin from the village of Hura, and said SWAT teams arrested a member of his family on suspicion of aiding him in the attack.

The Israeli soldier killed in the Beersheba attack was named as 19-year-old Sgt. Omri Levi. Four other soldiers and seven civilians were injured, according to the Israeli military.

The Beersheba attack came amid heightened tensions over a wave of stabbings, shootings and clashes in Israel and the West Bank which has killed at least 42 Palestinians and eight Israelis.

Secretary of State John Kerry — will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this week — urged both leaders to take urgent action to end the "senseless" violence.

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