Israeli Bedouin leaders on Monday expressed shock, surprise and outrage at news that the perpetrator of Sunday’s deadly terrorist attack at the Beersheba central bus station was an Israeli Arab from a Bedouin village east of the city, in the country’s Negev region.
Muhanad Alukabi, 21, a resident of an unrecognized village near the Bedouin town of Hura, was shot dead at the scene after shooting and killing IDF soldier Omri Levy and wounding 11 other people. An Eritrean asylum seeker was shot during the incident, when security forces apparently mistook him for a second terrorist. The man, who later died in the hospital, was named as 29-year-old Haftom Zarhum.
“Following [Sunday’s] terrorist attack at the Beersheba central bus station in which two innocent people lost their lives, we utterly and unreservedly condemn this despicable act and reject violence of any sort,” Hura Mayor Mohammed Alnabari said in a statement as community leaders gathered for an urgent meeting.
“Although, contrary to reports in the media, the terrorist is not a resident of Hura, we condemn this act on behalf of the entire Bedouin society and wish to make clear that you cannot be both a terrorist and a citizen of the country; the two are inherently contradictory,” he continued.
“We call upon all the residents of the Negev, Arabs and Jews, to preserve and protect the relations between the two peoples for the benefit of us all. We pray for better and quieter days in which all the citizens of the country live together in peace.”
According to the Shin Bet security service, Alukabi’s mother was originally from the Gaza Strip and was granted citizenship because she was married to an Israeli Arab. The terrorist had no previous criminal record.
Alkubi’s father, Khalil, also condemned his son’s attack and stressed that he deplored any form of violence.
“This is an individual act carried out by my son on his own accord,” Khalil Alkubi said, according to the Maariv news site. “We are against violence.”
Talal al-Krenawi, the mayor of Rahat, a large Bedouin city near Beersheba, said the shooting caught the community by surprise.
“His family is not known as a family that encourages acts of terrorism,” al-Krenawi told Channel 2. “The head of their family, Sheikh Alukabi, helped establish this state,” he added. “This is why we are even more shocked; we really cannot comprehend it.”
Al-Krenawi stressed that the Bedouin community at large was not supportive of terrorism, and expressed hope that no other members of the minority would take part in attacks against Israelis.
“Any harm to innocent civilians, both Arabs and Jews, is not acceptable to us,” he declared, according to Channel 2 television. “We live in the Negev, Bedouins and Jews, as brothers. Any attempt to damage our relationship will not be accepted. We are not part of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Nuri Alukabi, a relative of the terrorist, said that while the family felt disrespected by Israeli authorities, those sentiments were under no circumstances an excuse for violence.
“Israel did not respect us even though we were one of the most respectable families in the Negev,” he told Channel 2. “They screwed us over and dispossessed us from everything, but that does not justify violence.”
Alukabi did not elaborate any further on the details of the dispute between his family and the state.
But Osama Alukabi, another one of the terrorist’s relatives, told the Maariv news site that it was violence and discrimination carried out by the state that ultimately led to acts such as the Beersheba attack.
“We are against violence in general; however, the authorities of the country which practice violence, discrimination and racism are leading some young people to employ desperate measures,” he said. “We are for peaceful protests and we do not think this is the way, although on this hard day we must say the truth, the racism of the government pushes young people to carry out such extreme measures.”
Earlier Monday, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev called on the government to revoke the Israeli citizenship of the mother of the Bedouin terrorist.
“His mother is a resident of Gaza who came to Israel to marry an Israeli citizen,” Regev, a Likud party lawmaker, said. “Now we need to revoke her identity card and expel her and the entire family of the murderer back to Gaza.”
Other members of Alukabi’s family have been arrested by police on suspicion of aiding and abetting the terrorist, who had no prior security record.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.