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Mourning Begins For Victims of Be’er Sheba Bus Station Attack

Haftom Zarhum, a 29-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker, and Omri Levi, a 19-year-old IDF soldier, were tragically killed in Southern Israel on Sunday night

Tess Cutler and Jonathan Zalman
October 19, 2015

A number of young people died in a brutal act of terror on Sunday night in Israel after a Bedouin-Israeli gunman opened fire at a bus station in Southern Israel, wounding 11, including four soldiers and four police officers, and killing onea 19-year-old Israeli soldier, before being shot and killed himself by police, reported Haaretz. During the chaos at Be’er Sheba’s central bus station, a male Eritrean asylum seeker was also shot by a security guard after being “misidentified” as the assailant; later, as he bled to death, bystanders beat him. He soon died from his injuries at Soroka Hospital nearby.

The terror-seeking gunman has been identified by Israeli police as Muhand Alukabi (or, Mouhand al-Okbi), a 21-year-old resident from Hura, a small Bedouin community in the Negev where nearly half its residents reportedly earn less than minimum wage. When he entered the bus station, Alukabi, wielding a gun and a knife, shot Omri Levi, a 19-year-old IDF soldier from Sdei Hemed, a moshav in Central Israel. Alukabi then took the Levi’s M16 rifle and continued his rampage. Levi was returning to his base after having a medical checkup. The Eritrean asylum seeker, a 29-year-old man named Haftom Zarhum, was in Be’er Sheba to renew his visa, but he never made it. Reported Al-Jazeera:

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, called the attack a “natural response” and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian group, said it was a “normal answer to Israeli crimes.”

Answers as to how the gunman initially got past security are still being sought. In the meantime, people are mourning.

On Monday, Eritrean and Sudanese refugees stood silently in a circle at Holot detention center, a male-only “open” prison in the Negev, and mourned the tragic loss of Zarhum, who was merely an innocent bystander when the bus station fell into chaos. As the events unfolded, Zarhum, who appeared to be crawling to safety, was approached and shot by a security guard. Moments later, a graphic video shows Zarhum on the floor of the bus station, bleeding profusely with his arms above his head, as onlookers pin him down with a chair. Some kicked him but others appear to push those abusers away.

The Tel Aviv-based African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) recounted the events in a public statement, alleging “that emergency medical staff were delayed in leaving the scene with Mr. Zarhum due to protests over him receiving medical treatment.” Today, Mutasim Ali, a Sudanese asylum seeker and executive director at the ARDC, posted photos of Zarhum’s tribute at Holot on his Facebook page.

Levi, whose coffin was dressed in an Israeli flag, was laid to rest in a ceremony on Monday afternoon in Sdei Hemed. Reported The Times of Israel:

Mourners described the 19-year-old basketball enthusiast as honorable, driven and a natural leader.

Many praised him for acting as a father figure to his younger brothers, Yuval and Ro’i, following the death of their father…

…After the ceremony, the family played the song “Forever Young” by singer-songwriter Rami Kleinstein, a Hebrew version of the Bob Dylan ballad, whose lyrics are inscribed on his father’s tombstone.

The Eritrean Embassy is reportedly requesting Zarhum’s body be returned to Eritrea for burial.

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