Israel probes mob assault on African bystander shot amid latest violence – Washington Post

An African asylum seeker was shot by an Israeli guard who mistook him for an assailant and was then kicked by a mob as he lay bleeding before he died, according to a video posted Monday amid a wave of violence that has left the nation on edge.

While images of the growing Arab-Israeli tensions have dominated the news here for weeks — showing Israeli soldiers in residential streets and Palestinians facing checkpoints and searches — the video from Sunday’s assault offered a vivid tableau of Israelis’ anger and frustration at their inability to quell the violence.

It also appeared to display increasing hard-line reactions from Israeli security forces and guards, whose tactics have drawn harsh criticism — especially from Palestinians — that Israel is using excessive force instead of trying to apprehend suspects.

Since the start of October, eight Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in nearly 30 attacks that have raised fears that a wider Palestinian uprising could be looming. At least 18 of the assailants were shot and killed on the spot by police, soldiers or security guards.

The Israeli police launched an investigation into what local media described as a “lynching” Sunday against an innocent man — shot amid the chaos of an attack that left an Israeli soldier dead. It was not immediately clear whether the African man died from the gunshot, the beating or a combination of the two.

“No one should take the law into their own hands,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He added that police were examining security tapes in attempts to identify those who assaulted the wounded man at a bus station in the southern city of Beersheba.

In the attack, an Israeli Bedouin Arab attacker killed a 19-year-old soldier, Omri Levy, whose military rifle was taken and used by the assailant. A second victim, police said, was an Eritrean asylum seeker shot by a security guard who mistakenly believed he was a second attacker.

In an apparent reflection of soaring tensions after weeks of violence and bloodshed in Israel, the wounded Eritrean was kicked and beaten by an Israeli mob as he lay bleeding.

A few people dropped a line of bus station seats on the man. Others placed a chair above him as crowds closed in.

The attack, which took place in the Negev desert city’s central bus station during the busy rush-hour period, followed more than two weeks of daily attacks by Palestinians against Israelis that have left the country shaken and suspicious.

Israel’s internal security agency identified the Beersheba attacker as Mohind al-Okbi, 21, a resident of a nearby Bedouin town. Some Bedouins in Israel serve as trackers in the Israeli military, but many identify with the Palestinians, sharing the same religion, language and other cultural traits.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry, speaking from Madrid, called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to end the current “senseless” violence, the Associated Press reported from the Spanish capital.

Ahead of meetings with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Kerry said Monday that he will work with both leaders to try to reduce tensions.

Kerry is expected to meet Netanyahu in Berlin later this week and Abbas in Jordan over the weekend.

Kerry pushed back against suggestions that diplomacy should take a back seat to the immediate goal of restoring stability. The two must go “hand-in-hand,” he said, the AP reported.

According to Israeli security services, most of the attacks on Israelis were carried out by solo assailants not related to any militant Palestinian factions. Many of the attackers were teenagers, and most of the assaults have taken place in Jerusalem.

On Sunday, as part of crackdown measures approved last week by the Israeli security cabinet, the Israeli police erected a 10-yard-long concrete wall between the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber and the Jewish neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv in Jerusalem. The move drew sharp criticism and prompted newspaper headlines on Monday about a repartitioning of Jerusalem.

The current escalation was sparked, in part, by Palestinian resentment over restricted access to the compound at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. The site is revered by Muslims, who refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.

Sunday’s Negev desert attack came a day after three Palestinian attackers wielding knives were shot dead by Israelis, and two other Palestinian assailants were shot and wounded.

The repeated attacks by Palestinian youths against Jewish targets and the often deadly fire by Israeli police, soldiers and civilians illustrate the close-quarters nature of the current conflict.

Palestinian officials charge that Israeli authorities and civilians are too quick to shoot. Some Palestinian families also have accused Israelis of planting knives at the scenes.

For the first time in more than a decade, Israeli soldiers were being deployed to city centers in Israel. Thousands of border police reservists were called up for duty.

On Friday, Palestinians set fire to a Jewish shrine in the West Bank. The blaze at the Tomb of the Prophet Joseph, on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, was brought under control by Palestinian forces.

On the diplomatic front, Israeli officials have opposed a French draft proposal being circulated at the U.N. Security Council that calls for an international monitoring force to be deployed at the raised esplanade that holds ­the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. The holy site has been the scene of frequent clashes.

Israeli leaders have accused Palestinian political and religious leaders, including Palestinian ­Authority President Abbas, of inciting violence at al-Aqsa by falsely claiming that Israel wants to change the status quo agreements that reserve the area for Muslim prayer only, while allowing visits by tourists, including Jews and Christians.

Palestinians revere al-Aqsa both as a religious site and a symbol of Muslim pride and Palestinian aspirations. They point to a small but growing number of Jews who want to be allowed to pray at the site of their destroyed temples and to Jewish extremists who want to see the third temple built there.

Daniela Deane in London and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.

Read more:

Israeli gun owners rush to shooting ranges amid wave of attacks

Palestinians don’t hate Abbas, but they’re tired of him

Palestinians set fire to a Jewish shrine

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world


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