Beersheba attacker identified as Bedouin citizen of Israel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The assailant in an attack on the Beersheba Central Bus Station that killed an Israeli soldier and wounded 11 has been identified as a Bedouin-Israeli from southern Israel.

Mouhand al-Okbi, 21, of the southern Israeli town of Hura, located near Beersheba, was named Monday morning as the attacker. He did not have a criminal record.  Al-Okbi’s mother is originally from the Gaza Strip and moved to Israel after she married an Arab-Israeli citizen, according to the Shin Bet security service. At least one member of al-Okbi’s family has been arrested for collaborating with him, according to reports.

Al-Okbi entered the bus station on Sunday night armed with a handgun and a knife. He stabbed a soldier and grabbed his M-16 rifle, then opened fire on the bus station. He was shot and killed during the attack.

An Eritrean migrant who was mistaken for a second assailant was shot and seriously wounded during the attack. He died hours later at Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.

Video images show the Eritrean man lying in a pool of his own blood being kicked by bystanders who thought he was an assailant, following the attack.

Israel Police on Monday said they would investigate the erroneous shooting of the migrant and the attack by civilians.

Israeli media charged that the man, named as Haftom Zarhum, 29, was shot solely due to the color of his skin.

Israel Police in a statement posted on its website said the attack on the downed man was a “very grave” incident and said it would “not allow citizens to take the law into their own hands.” The police statement also called on citizens to “act with restraint and extra caution and to allow the police to perform their job.”

The statement also said that police would attempt to identify the citizens who attacked the downed man and bring them in for questioning.

Commander of the Southern District Police, Maj-Gen Yoram Halevy met on Monday with leaders of the Bedouin community in the South.  Halevy praised the “coexistence between Jewish and Bedouin citizens living side by side” in the Negev and said that it “must be preserved at all costs.”

Bedouin leaders condemned the attack, and said that incidents of violence and terrorism involving members of the Bedouin community are “wrong, unacceptable and harmful.”

IDF soldier Omri Levi of Moshav Sde Hemed in central Israel was killed in the attack.



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