Speed Reads

violence in israel

Following deadly bus station attack, Israeli lawmaker says 'this is what sliding into an abyss looks like'

Mila Zerhom.

On Monday, Israel was still reeling from an attack on Sunday that left three people dead, including an Israeli soldier, the man who shot him, and an innocent asylum seeker from Eritrea.

Authorities say that Mohannad Oqbi, 21, an Israeli Arab, shot and killed soldier Omri Levy, 19, and injured 10 others at a bus station in Beersheba. A security guard saw Eritrean asylum seeker Mila Habtom Zerhom run for cover, and assumed he was an accomplice; after the guard shot Zerhom, an angry mob beat him and threw chairs at him, and Zerhom later died in the hospital from his injuries. He had worked in a greenhouse near the Gaza border, and his boss told Ynet he was a nice and modest man who worked hard. He had been in Beersheba to renew his temporary residence visa.

Violence has plagued Israel over the past three weeks due to tensions over a site in Jerusalem that is sacred to Muslims and Jews, with attacks happening on almost a daily basis; nine Israelis and 40 Palestinians are dead, and dozens injured. Pepper spray is flying off the shelves, the Los Angeles Times reports, and there's been a bump in handgun permit applications. Once footage was released of the mob beating Zerhom, several politicians spoke out against the incident, including opposition lawmaker Dov Khenin. "This is what sliding into an abyss looks like," he wrote on Facebook. "One crime breeds another. Indiscriminate shooting in Beersheba. Fatality and injuries. Fear and hysteria. Lynching an asylum seeker. If each and every one of us does not act now to stop the fall, we will reach darker places yet."

Investigators are looking over the security video to track down people involved in the incident. One man interviewed by Israeli media, who gave his nickname of Dudu, said he told police he believed Zerhom was a terrorist: "I told them that if he was a terrorist, no one would have said a word about it. Today I regret it, but this is only in hindsight. I didn't sleep well at night, all I could think of was this. I felt disgusting."