Eritrean mistaken for gunman killed in Israel

  • Reuters, Jerusalem
  • Updated: Oct 19, 2015 23:47 IST
A wounded Eritrean man who later died of his wounds, is evacuated at the main bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva on October 18, 2015, after he was mistakenly shot by an Israeli security guard and beaten by a mob during an attack. (AFP Photo)

An Eritrean migrant, shot by a security guard and kicked by an angry Israeli crowd that mistook him for a gunman, was identified on Monday as one of the dead from 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 Israeli media described as a lynching, captured on amateur video on Sunday, the attack on Abtum underscored a mounting sense of panic and anger over a wave of Palestinian attacks that shows no sign of abating.

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.

“We’ve a country of law. No one will take the law into his own hands,” he told his party’s lawmakers in broadcast remarks.

The almost-three-weeks of violence has killed 41 Palestinians, including assailants and demonstrators at anti-Israeli protests, eight 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.

US secretary of state John Kerry, due to hold separate meetings this week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, said on Monday it was vital they clarify the status around the compound, also revered by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical temples.

Netanyahu has said he seeks no change to the decades-old status quo in which Israel bans Jewish prayer at the al-Aqsa site in the walled Old City of East Jerusalem, captured along with the West Bank in a 1967 war. He says religious incitement, speeded by social media, has fuelled the bloodshed.

“What we see here is a combination of extremist Islam and the Internet. It’s Osama bin Laden meets (Facebook founder) Mark Zuckerberg,” he said at the Likud party meeting.

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