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4 indicted in beating of asylum seeker after terror attack

Men accused of causing injury with grave intent to Haftom Zarhum, who was killed after he was mistaken for a terrorist in Beersheba

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

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

Four Israeli men were indicted Tuesday for the brutal beating of another man in the minutes after a terror attack in Beersheba. The four maintain that they mistook him for the terrorist.

Israel Defense Forces soldier Yaakov Shimba, Israel Prisons Service guard Ronen Cohen, and two civilians, David Muial and Evyatar Dimri, were made to face counts of injury with grave intent at the Beersheba District Court over the October 18, 2015, incident.

The victim, Eritrean asylum seeker Haftom Zarhum, 29, was also shot by a security guard, and died in the hospital several hours later. The security guard also maintains that he believed Zarhum was a terrorist.

The attack, at the city’s central bus station, left an Israeli soldier dead and 11 people wounded.

Pathologists determined that Zarhum died from internal bleeding due to a gunshot wound, not the repeated blows to the head, clearing the four suspects of direct responsibility for his death. If convicted, however, they could still face several years in prison.

During the attack, terrorist Muhanad Alukabi, 21, from an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev, opened fire with a pistol, killing IDF soldier Omri Levi, stealing his gun and wounding 11 others. He was killed in a shootout with police after holing up in a bathroom.

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)

During the ensuing confusion, as crowds ran for cover, a security guard mistook Zarhum for a terrorist and shot him.

According to the charge sheet, in the aftermath of the attack, as Zarhum lay helpless and bleeding on the floor, surrounded by a large crowd of people, Muial approached and forcefully dropped a bench on him with the intention of causing him serious injury. People in the area moved Muial away and lifted the bench off the victim, but then Shimba and Dimri moved in and kicked Zarhum hard in the head and his upper body. Cohen then dropped the bench on the prostrate man again, to prevent him from moving.

The attack on Zarhum was met with widespread outrage in Israel after a graphic video emerged showing the severity of the attack. The CCTV footage showed a number of people repeatedly kicking him in the head as one man tried to protect him. One man was seen holding a knife, while curses and shouts of “Kill him!” could be heard from the crowd.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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