Habtom Zerhun, an Eritrean asylum seeker who was lynched after being shot during Sunday’s deadly terrorist attack at Be’er Sheva central bus station, having being mistaken for a terrorist, will not be recognized as an official victim of terrorism by the State of Israel.
Reason? Because he is an “infiltrator”, a dregatory word used by Israel officials instead of ‘illegal migrants.’
The State, however, agreed to cover the cost for flying his body back to Eritrea despite initial resistance by the Israeli Social Security for fear that the mere financing of the flight might be construed as recognition of his status as an official victim of terror.
A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry told the local press Haaretz daily on Tuesday that as Zarhun 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.
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.
The Israeli authorities have opened an investigation into the death. Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld said, “First, we are reviewing who were involved, what they did, and what were the precise
circumstances of each one of them at all times while the incident took place.”
Footage from the bus station surveillance cameras recorded the incident and shows a thirst for revenge by many Israelis.
Video analysis of the incident indicates that the victim, who was shot by the station’s security guard, was not demonstrating any threat when he was lynched by civilians and another person who looked like an Israeli soldier.
Israeli military police are also analyzing other footage showing several armed soldiers from combat units fleeing from the 21-year old Palestinian who carried out the attack instead of facing him.
Israeli police said they arrested four Israelis on Wednesday over the lynching of an Eritrean immigrant shot and severely beaten after being mistaken as the perpetrator of an attack.
“Four Israelis suspected of participating in the lynching… in Beersheeba have been arrested, and more arrests are expected,” a police statement said.
The police statement said the four would go before a judge on Thursday.