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.
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.
"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.