Arrests in the shooting and subsequent beating of an Eritean man who was initially thought to have carried out a terror attack will only take place after the results of an autopsy, police said Tuesday, as a probe into the incident ramped up.
Police said they had opened an investigation into the incident and were gathering evidence and testimony but would only issue subpoenas following the results of the postmortem examination.
Eritrean national Haftom Zarhum, 29, died in Beersheba’s Soroka Hospital, where he was treated after being shot by a security guard who thought he was a terrorist and then beaten by a mob.
Videos from the incident showed him fleeing the scene, only to be gunned down and then kicked repeatedly in the head by a crowd in the bus station.
Officials at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba said signs indicated he likely died from a combination of the bullet wound and the subsequent beating by the mob.
Southern District police chief Yoram Halevi condemned the attack Monday, warning against vengeful vigilance by civilians.
“A line has been crossed where we went from a state of alert and responsiveness to a state where we lashed out — we can say lynched — and hurt someone who’s wounded,” he said. “Even if [the victim] is the attacker, there’s no right to hurt him.”
Halevi’s comments were matched by the top political echelon.
“Someone who witnesses a [terror] attack needs to leave the scene and allow security and rescue forces to work,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset on Monday. “We’re a nation of laws. No one may take the law into their hands. That’s the first rule.”
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon called for the perpetrators to be arrested.
“We must bring the attackers to justice. No one should behave this way, even when there is great anger and sadness,” he said.
One of the people who took part in the beating of Zarhum, identified only as Dudu, told Army Radio in an interview Monday morning that “I saw people coming and crowding around him. I understood from them that this was the terrorist.
“If I had known that this wasn’t the terrorist I would have protected him like I protect myself,” Dudu said. “In a moment of fear and pressure, you do things you’re not conscious of whatsoever.”
He added, “I didn’t sleep well last night and I only thought about those things, I feel disgusting.”
An IDF soldier was killed and 11 others were wounded in the terror attack at the Beersheba Central Bus Station Sunday night when an Israeli Beduin man launched a shooting and stabbing spree, the latest in a spate of near-deadly attacks on Israelis by mainly Palestinian assailants. So far, only one other attack — out of 35 since October 1 — was perpetrated by an Arab citizen of Israel.