Rights groups blast Israel for killing of Eritrean man

Rights groups condemn Israelis for killing of young Eritrean and call for justice

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Israeli security personals stand at the scene of the incident, at the Beersheba central bus station

An Eritrean asylum seeker, Haftom Zarhum, was ‘accidentally’ killed by security forces who took him as a second gunman, accomplice of an attacker that killed an Israeli soldier during an attack at a bus station in Israel on Sunday night.

Zarhum was a bystander when an Israeli Army soldier was killed and 10 others, including four policemen, were injured by a gunman, who was armed with a knife and a gun, opened fire at a bus station in the southern city of Beersheba earlier on Monday.

After Zarhum was shot by a security guard and was bleeding on the ground, a mob and civilians lynched him. The young Eritrean later died in hospital from the trauma. Meanwhile, the gunman was shot and killed by security forces on the scene.

The lynch mob attack on Zarhum is the latest incident in Israel that encouraged Israeli citizens to take the law into their own hands.

Rights groups condemned the deadly attack on Monday and called for Israeli authorities to bring those who killed Zarhum to justice.

"The death of an asylum seeker at the hands of security guards and an angry mob is a tragic but foreseeable outgrowth of a climate in which some Israeli politicians encourage citizens to take the law into their own hands," said Sari Bashi, Israel-Palestine country director at Human Rights Watch.

"The Israeli authorities should investigate and prosecute those responsible for the attack. Israel faces acute threats to public safety, but vigilantism will only lead to more innocent people being harmed or killed."

Amnesty International Israel said it was "appalled and in mourning" by the death of Zarhum.

"Zarhum was shot by an Israeli security officer, targeted simply because of the colour of his skin. He was a victim of racism and xenophobia….After being shot and wounded, Israeli civilians then set upon and attacked Zarhum, beating him to death,” an official at Amnesty International Israel said.

"Amnesty demands that the Israeli police arrest those involved in the murder of Zarhum, and to bring them to justice."

The group said also that the murder was not an isolated case.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed that Zarhum was ‘misidentified’ as an accomplice of the gunman.

"The man was hit by bystanders and individual civilians who were in the area. Police are looking into it now and have obtained the CCTV footage of the incident," he told media sources.

An Israeli soldier was caught on cameras kicking Zarhum in his head as he was bleeding on the ground of the bus station.

The killing of Zarhum is still under investigation by Israeli police.

Since Oct. 1, at least 44 Palestinians - including alleged attackers, unarmed protesters and bystanders - have been killed either by Israeli authorities or settlers while eight Israelis have died in recent street violence, which was in part triggered by Palestinians' anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque compound.

According to Palestinian Health Ministry figures, at least 1,700 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli gunfire since Oct. 1.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on October 18, 2015

Risk of vigilantism growing

After having expressed his condolences to Zarhum’s family, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged his citizens against vigilantism.

"We are a law-abiding country. No one must take the law into their own hands," Netanyahu told officials from his Likud party.

As the risk of vigilantism has been growing, Amnesty International Israel said "It is a result of the government's and Israeli authorities' encouragement to execute people without trial.”

"It is the responsibility of the Israeli government and security forces to stop and to prevent civilians from taking the law into their own hands, and to eradicate the security forces killing of suspects without a fair trial."

An organisation defending the rights of refugees, Hotline for Refugees and Migrants in Israel, posted images of a vigil held for Zarhum’s honour on Monday.

Most African refugees held at Israel’s detention centre in Holot gathered to mourn for the 29-year-old victim.

African refugees have long been suffering from political incitement and discriminatory legislation in Israel.

In July, an Israeli court approved the deportation of refugees to Rwanda and Uganda as refugees refused to leave.

In the past, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev, a member of the Likud party, called African refugees as a "cancer in Israel’s body."

Refugees’ residences and schools have also been attacked many times by firebombs in recent years.

TRTWorld and agencies