Israeli police launch investigation into Eritrean man’s death

Israeli police launch an investigation into death of Eritrean man after being shot and kicked by an angry Israeli crowd that mistook him for a gunman during an attack.

BEERSHEVA, ISRAEL (OCTOBER 18, 2015) (REUTERS) – Israeli police have launched an investigation into the death of an Eritrean migrant, shot by a security guard and kicked by an angry Israeli crowd that mistook him for a gunman, during an attack on a bus station in the southern city of Beersheba.

The Eritrean agricultural worker was named by his employer as Mila Abtum. In what some described as a lynching, captured on amateur video on Sunday (October 18), the attack on Abtum underscored a mounting sense of panic and anger over a wave of Palestinian attacks that shows no sign of abating.

“Politicians have warned about possible connection to ISIS or Hamas, and as a result when people in Beersheba saw a person with dark skin, even though in Israel not a single refugee ever committed a terrorist attack, they beat him to death basically,” Elizabeth Tsurkav, Project Director at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, said.

Palestinian and Israeli officials have exchanged blame over the incitement that is taking place which has led to citizens angrily and violently taking matters into their own hands.

The attacker, who police said was a Bedouin citizen of Israel, entered the heavily guarded station armed with a pistol on Sunday (October 18) and shot dead a soldier before snatching his rifle and opening fire on the crowd, wounding nine people.

Police shot the assailant dead, and initially reported there had been a second gunman. On Monday (October 19), they said there had been no other attacker and an investigation had been opened into the Eritrean man’s death.

“What we know based on CCTV footage is that the Eritrean man was struck a number of times by people who were in the area and we are looking to see who is involved in that incident as the investigation is continuing,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Amateur video showed a security guard shooting the Eritrean. Lying on the ground bleeding, and with armed paramilitary police surrounding him, he was kicked and had objects thrown at his head several times by people at the scene.

Nitza Neuman-Heiman, Deputy Director General of Soroka Medical Center, told Army Radio the Eritrean died of gunshot wounds and the injuries he sustained from the kicks.

Sagi Malachi, his employer, described Abtum as a quiet, modest man who had traveled to Beersheva to renew his visa.

“It is quite shameful for the entire people of Israel, it’s barbaric behaviour and it’s a pity that such a minority makes a bad impression, they do not serve us well as humans,” Malachi said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-wing government has deployed soldiers to reinforce municipal police and encouraged Israeli civilians with gun licenses to go about armed, warned against vigilantism.

Almost three weeks of violence has killed 44 Palestinians, including assailants and demonstrators at anti-Israeli protests, nine Israelis and now one Eritrean. It was set off in part by Palestinians’ anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque complex.