Eritrean killed in Beersheba ineligible for terror victim status
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Eritrean killed in Beersheba ineligible for terror victim status

Haftom Zarhum, shot by guard and brutally beaten by mob after being mistaken for terrorist, had entered Israel illegally

Security camera footage showing an Eritrean man being shot in the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015, after he was thought to be a terrorist. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Security camera footage showing an Eritrean man being shot in the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015, after he was thought to be a terrorist. (screen capture: Channel 2)

An Eritrean asylum seeker who died after he was shot and later beaten during Sunday’s deadly terrorist attack at Beersheba central bus station, having being mistaken for a terrorist, will not be recognized by as a terror victim by the State of Israel as he had entered the country illegally.

Twenty-nine-year-old Haftom Zarhum died in Soroka Hospital in Beersheba after he was shot by a security officer who believed he was an assailant, and then brutally beaten by a mob at the site of the attack. Videos from the incident showed Zarhum fleeing the scene, only to be gunned down and then kicked repeatedly in the head by a crowd in the bus station.

A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry told the Haaretz daily on Tuesday that as Zarhum did not have a permit to reside in Israel, he did not meet the criterion stated by the law and was therefore not eligible for the status of “Victim of Hostilities.”

The Victims of Hostilities Law recognizes a person who was accidentally shot or harmed, “due to hostile action by enemy forces,” as a hostility victim, a status that means the individual and his relatives are eligible for benefits from the state. However, the law explicitly defines that a victim of hostilities must be a resident of Israel, an Israeli citizen or a person who entered Israel with a visa or permit.

Haftom Zarhum, 29, died of his wounds on October 19, 2015 a day after he was shot and beaten by a mob that mistook him for an assailant in the terror attack in Beersheba on October 18 in which IDF soldier Omri Levy, 19 was killed. (Courtesy)
Haftom Zarhum, 29, died of his wounds on October 19, 2015 a day after he was shot and beaten by a mob that mistook him for an assailant in the terror attack in Beersheba on October 18 in which IDF soldier Omri Levy, 19 was killed. (Courtesy)

Following Sunday’s attack, Police said in a statement that they viewed Zarhum’s death as a “very grave” incident, and that they “will not allow [citizens] to take the law into their hands.” The police also called for “everyone to act with restraint and extra caution and allow the police to perform their duty.” Negev regional police chief Amnon Alkalai ordered investigators to locate the civilians who beat the man.

The Israeli press expressed outrage over the attack on the Eritrean man, with Yedioth Ahronoth reporting that he was shot “only because of the color of his skin.”A member of Knesset from the Meretz party branded the incident a lynching and demanded the arrest of those responsible.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a terror attack at the Beersheba central bus station in the southern city, October 18, 2015. (Meir Even Haim/Flash90)
Israeli security forces at the scene of a terror attack at the Beersheba central bus station in the southern city, October 18, 2015. (Meir Even Haim/Flash90)

However, coalition member and Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal reacted to the shooting by saying on Facebook that, “in every war there’s friendly fire. We need to try hard to prevent this. And still, in percentages, in this war the number of instances of injuries by our forces is low. We must continue and try to strive to reach and eliminate every terrorist.”

An IDF soldier, Omri Levy, was killed and 11 others were injured in the attack at the crowded bus station, when an Israeli Bedouin man stabbed the soldier and then opened fire. Police named the terrorist as 21-year-old Muhanad Alukabi, a resident of a Bedouin village near Beersheba.

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