Eritrean dies after mistakenly shot, beaten in Israel attack

October 19, 2015 1:08 pm
A Palestinian protester gestures during clashes with Israeli security forces near the Jewish settlement of Beit El on the outskirts of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on October 17, 2015  © AFP
A Palestinian protester gestures during clashes with Israeli security forces near the Jewish settlement of Beit El on the outskirts of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on October 17, 2015

, JERUSALEM, Oct 19 – An Eritrean man has died after being mistakenly shot and beaten by a mob during an attack in Israel, as a wave of Palestinian violence spread fear and defied international calls for calm.

More than two weeks of violence and unrest have raised warnings of the risk of a full-scale Palestinian uprising, while some Israeli politicians have urged residents to arm themselves to fend of the threat of stabbings and gun assaults.

The attacks, and violent protests which have erupted across Israel and the Palestinian Territories, have prompted a range of security measures including the erection of a controversial temporary wall in annexed east Jerusalem.

Sunday night’s mob violence came after a gunman also armed with a knife stormed a bus station in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, killing a 19-year-old Israeli soldier and wounding around 10 others.

The gunman was killed, while a security guard at the bus station shot the 26-year-old Eritrean thinking he was a second attacker. A mob also beat him, Israeli media reported.

Police identified the attacker as a Mohannad Al-Aqaby, 21, an Arab Israeli citizen from the area. Arab Israelis make up some 17.5 percent of the Israeli population and are largely supportive of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

“During a raid last night, security forces and Shin Bet (internal security agency) arrested one of his family members, who was accused of providing support” for the attack, police said Monday.

Video that spread online appears to show the Eritrean lying on the ground after being shot and receiving blows to the head and body from angry bystanders.

Police said an investigation had been opened to find those behind the assault, adding that they “considered this incident as extremely serious” and “would not allow anyone to take the law into his own hands”.

Israeli media described him as an asylum seeker, like many Eritreans who have come to Israel, though authorities have not confirmed those details.

Official figures show some 45,000 illegal immigrants are in Israel, almost all from Eritrea and Sudan. About two-thirds are Eritrean.

– Kerry to meet Netanyahu, Abbas –

The relentless violence has defied an Israeli security crackdown as well as international calls for both sides to calm tensions. Many of the attacks have seen young Palestinians with knives stabbing Israelis before being shot dead.

Israel had already set up checkpoints in Palestinian areas of east Jerusalem, where the majority of attackers have been from, and some 300 soldiers have begun reinforcing police.

On Sunday, it controversially began erecting a temporary wall between the east Jerusalem Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabel Mukaber and Jewish neighbourhood Armon Hanatziv to protect it from firebomb and stone attacks.

The Zionist Union, the centre-left coalition which leads opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, heavily criticised the move.

“Netanyahu officially divided Jerusalem today,” it said in a statement. “Netanyahu has lost the ability to keep the safety of Israel’s citizens and Jerusalem’s unity.”

Netanyahu has come under heavy criticism over the attacks, while Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s calls for peaceful protest have failed to stop frustrated youths fed up with his leadership and Israel’s right-wing government.

Most of the attackers appear to have been acting on their own, without direction from militant movements.

At least 41 Palestinians have died since the start of the month, including alleged attackers, while eight Israelis have been killed.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to meet separately with both Netanyahu and Abbas in the coming days, as well as Jordan’s King Abdullah, who has previously acted as a mediator.

On Monday during a visit to Madrid, Kerry called for an end to the violence, while adding that “Israel has every right in the world to protect itself.”

“We want to see calm restored and we want to see violence stop,” Kerry said.

Israel was also to again voice its opposition Monday to French proposals to send international observers to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, with France’s ambassador summoned to the Israeli foreign ministry.

Clashes at the compound between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in September preceded the current wave of violence.

Muslims fear Israel will seek to change rules governing the site, located in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The site is sacred to Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there to avoid provoking tensions, and Netanyahu has said repeatedly he has no intention of changing the rules.


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