The perpetrator of Sunday’s deadly terrorist attack at Beersheba Central Bus Station was an Israeli Arab from the Bedouin town of Hura, east of the city, Israel police said Monday.
The man, who was shot to death at the scene, was named as Muhanad Alukabi, 21. Members of his family have been arrested by police on suspicion of aiding and abetting him.
The attack left IDF soldier Omri Levy dead and 11 others wounded. By Monday morning, six people still in hospital, including members of the security forces who took on the terrorist. One person was in serious condition, while the other five were being treated for light wounds, Army Radio said.
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.
Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest selling daily newspaper, showed an image of his body lying in a pool of blood on the floor of the bus station, with the headline: “Just because of the color of his skin.”
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 man. The terrorist had no previous criminal record.
Tensions were high in Beersheba the day after the attack, with many employees of the Central Bus Station.opting not to show up to work.
Israeli police are investigating how the terrorist was not noticed by security personnel before he entered the bus station, despite the fact that he was armed with both a knife and a handgun. Security measures at the station were beefed up Monday morning, but local residents noted that metal detectors had not been erected at the entrances.
While the exact details of the police investigation regarding the attack were still under gag order, initial reports suggested that the terrorist stabbed a soldier and stole his firearm, then opened fire on the crowded bus terminal. The man was then shot and killed by responding forces after holing up in a bathroom.
During the confusion of the attack, two officers — one from an anti-terrorism unit and another from the Border Police — mistook the Eritrean national for a second gunman and shot him in the head. Amateur footage shows graphic images of the moments following the attack, when a crowd of bystanders beat and kicked Zarhum as he lay covered in blood, apparently in the mistaken belief he was one of the attackers.
The 19-year-old Levi, of Moshav Sde Hemed in central Israel, was to be laid to rest on at 4 p.m. Monday in the moshav cemetery.
“We’re talking about a very serious terror attack that could have resulted in severe consequences if it weren’t for the resourcefulness and the quick response of security forces,” Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danielovitch told Channel 2 after the attack.
“I appeal to residents: I understand the storm of emotions, but specifically now, we must practice restraint, be balanced and act calmly. Do not take the law into your own hands,” he urged.
Gadi Abuchatzeira, deputy head of the Magen David Adom rescue service for the Negev Region, said emergency workers responding to the attack found a number of injured, all of them in their 20s, inside the bus station.
“We arrived at the scene en masse and spread throughout the station to look for other victims. We did a triage and began giving lifesaving treatment. Two of them had wounds to their upper bodies, they were unconscious,” Abuchatzeira said.
“Four of the injured were fully conscious in moderate condition and suffering from gunshot wounds to the torso and legs. A woman was also injured with a gunshot wound to the limbs,” he continued.
Police were also investigating reports from eyewitnesses who said they saw two men, possibly accomplices, fleeing the scene of the attack.
Following the attack, many Beersheba residents voiced their complaints over when they called an ongoing lack of adequate security at the city’s bus terminal, and parents urged the municipality to immediately place security guards in all kindergartens across the city, according to the Ynet news site.
“Guards stand at the entrance and do not examine anything, there is no serious security,” Aviv, a resident of the city, told Channel 2. “It’s a shame and it is known, a disaster waiting to happen, I myself have previously called the municipality to warn about the situation.”
Last week, a local Beersheba newspaper published an investigative report on the security at the central station, concluding that authorities at the site were unprepared to deal with a terrorist attack.
A lawyer representing the security company guarding the central bus station in Beersheba insisted that the site had been secured in accordance with police demands, Channel 2 reported. “Our company is doing everything need and required by she police to carry out security operations at the place,” he said.