Eritrean killed by Israeli guard, mob attacks

Eritrean killed by Israeli guard, mob attacks
6 min read
19 October, 2015
An Eritrean migrant, shot by a security guard and kicked by an Israeli crowd was identified as one of the dead from an attack on a bus station Beersheba.
Heavily armed Israeli forces have been deployed to Israeli cities and the occupied territories [AFP]

An Eritrean migrant, shot by an Israeli security guard and then attacked by bystanders, has died of his wounds in a deadly bus station attack, Israeli hospital officials said Monday.

The Israeli daily newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, left no ambiguity as to exactly why the man, identified as Mulu Habtom Zerhom, was shot. Monday's headline read: "Just because of his skin colour."   

Nitza Neuman-Heiman, deputy general director of Soroka Medical Center, told Army Radio that Zerhom arrived at the hospital in a "very serious condition" and died late Sunday from both gunshot wounds and the injuries sustained during attacks by bystanders. The hospital said he suffered gunshot wounds to the abdomen.

The attack, at the central bus station in the southern city of Beersheba, was among the bloodiest in a monthlong wave of violence.

A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was killed and nine people were wounded when an assailant armed with a gun and knife opened fire. 

Israeli news websites posted security camera footage that shows Zerhom, crawling on the floor and a security guard shooting him.

Footage also showed a mob of shouting Israelis crowded around the man as he lay in a pool of blood. A bench was rammed at him and he was kicked in the back of the head, as an Israeli officer and a few bystanders tried to protect him.   
 
The attack came as Israel further tightened security around the country, highlighted by the construction of a barrier separating Israeli and Palestinian neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem.  

Israel has deployed thousands of police, backed up by troops, to maintain order following a spate of attacks, mostly stabbings, by Palestinian assailants. Those measures have so far failed to stop the violence. 

41 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, including 20 labelled as attackers, and the rest in clashes with Israeli troops

In Sunday night's attack, police said a Palestinian entered the central bus station in the southern city of Beersheba and began shooting and stabbing people.

They said an Israeli soldier was killed, five police were lightly wounded and five civilians were wounded to varying degrees.  

The unrest erupted in Jerusalem a month ago over tensions surrounding al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. It soon spread to Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and then to the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

Israel has struggled to contain near-daily attacks by Palestinian assailants.

Authorities have blocked roads and placed checkpoints at the entrances of Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.

Other security measures include ID checks and requiring some Palestinian residents to lift their shirts and roll up pant legs as they exit their neighbourhoods to prove they are not carrying knives. Soldiers have been deployed in Jerusalem and cities across Israel.

Israeli police Sunday erected a barrier to separate the Israeli neighbourhood of Armon Hanatziv from the adjacent Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber, where many alleged attackers have come.

An Israeli police spokeswoman said the barrier, a row of six concrete slabs about five metres high, was meant to protect Armon Hanatziv from rocks and firebombs lobbed from Jabal Mukaber.

But erecting a barrier dividing areas of Jerusalem is a sensitive step, testing Israel's repeated statements over the years that the city is its undivided, eternal capital. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for state.

The spokeswoman said the barrier would remain "for as long as needed" and that it could be lengthened based on security needs.

Palestinians said the roadblocks are collective punishment and ineffective in deterring attackers.

Palestinian workers banned

Meanwhile, at least four Israeli cities, including the commercial capital Tel Aviv, have temporarily banned Palestinian workers from their schools.

Israeli leaders say the violence is due to Palestinian incitement. But Palestinians say it is the result of years of Israeli occupation, failed peace efforts and lack of hope among their youth.

Much of that hopelessness is found in Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem. They complain of discrimination, noting that municipal services from education to rubbish pick up in their areas are neglected.

Over the past month, nine Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks, most of them stabbings. In that time, 41 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire, including 20 labelled as attackers, and the rest in clashes with Israeli troops.

The outbreak was fuelled by rumours that Israel was plotting to take over Jerusalem's most sensitive site, al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

At the start of a cabinet meeting Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected an idea from France that would see international observers sent to the compound.

"Israel cannot accept the French draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also said his government would start going after the finances of the Islamic Movement in Israel, a group he accuses of being the chief inciter of the recent violence.

A new phase in the 'intifada'

Many Israeli analysts believe the attack in Beersheba marks a new phase in the Palestinian uprising.

Amos Harel, defence analyst for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said the attack had probably been planned some time in advance, and suggested the attacker had received some training.

Harel said the attack could have been carried out by a Hamas "sleeper cell".

Other Israeli press reports, quoting security sources, said there are concerns in Israel regarding further "escalation" by the Palestinians, and fears that Fatah's armed wing could help stage attacks.

The Israeli security establishment, according to these reports, are also concerned by the repercussions of the "battle of succession" of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the situation in the West Bank.

This, according to the reports, could undermine security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and promote chaos in the Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank.



Kerry to meet with Netanyahu, Abbas

Kerry will meet Netanyahu and Abbas separately [Getty]

US Secretary of State John Kerry said it was important that Israeli and Palestinian leaders clarify the status around Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque compound and agree on steps to calm unrest during talks this week.

Kerry will meet with Netanyahu in Germany and separately with Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah at the end of the week to discuss ways to end the violence.

Kerry said Israel had a right to protect itself against random acts of violence, and in his conversations with Netanyahu, said he was committed to maintaining the status quo at the holy site.

"I don't have specific expectations except to try to move things forward, and that will depend on the conversations themselves," Kerry told reporters.

He added that he did not expect any changes in the status quo at the holy site.

He also said he will hold a meeting this week in Europe with counterparts from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Russia to explore options to end the conflict in Syria.