Israeli Who Attacked Asylum Seeker in 2015 Lynch Sentenced to Four Months in Prison

Defendant admitted to abusing a helpless person as part of plea deal reached last month ■ Nine people assaulted in 2015 an Eritrean asylum seeker they mistook for a terrorist who opened fire at a bus station

Damari in court on December 11, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkowitz

An Israeli man convicted of assaulting an Eritrean asylum seeker mistaken for a terrorist in 2015 was sentenced on Tuesday to four months in prison.

Haftom Zarhum died following a beating at the central bus station in the southern city of Be'er Sheva, but an autopsy of his body showed that he died of gunshots and not of the assault by nine people.

Be'er Shvea District Court sentenced the attacker, Evyatar Damari, who admitted to abusing a helpless person as part of a plea agreement reached last month and approved by the court.

At a hearing in the case last month, Damari told the court that he regretted his actions and would not repeat them.

CCTV footage shows Eritrean national shot and beaten in Be'er Sheva, October 18, 2015.

On October 18, 2015, a gunman later identified as Muhannad al-Okbi, a Bedouin from the Negev town of Hura who is an Israeli citizen, opened fire at the Be'er Sheva central bus station, killing a soldier and wounding 10 other people. Damari and eight others attacked Zarhum, mistakenly thinking he was the terrorist.

Security camera footage showed Damari kicking Zarhum after he had been shot. The prosecution in the case had initially sought to have Damari tried for aggravated intentional infliction of personal injury, which if convicted, could have had him sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Haftom Zarhum, who was killed by a mob wrongly suspecting him of terrorism on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

Damari is in a poor emotional state and has deteriorated while his case has been pending. Two months ago, he threatened a member of the prosecution team in his case, prompting additional charges against him and an order that he remain in detention until that case is disposed of.

His lawyer, Moshe Sorogovich, had asked the court to limit his client's sentence to just over a month at most and cited the case of another of Zarhum's assailants at the bus station, David Moyal, who in July was sentenced in a plea agreement to 100 days of community service. Moyal had hit Zarhum with a bench.

In addition to Damari and Moyal, two others were charged with assaulting Zarhum: A Golani brigade soldier by the name of Ya'akov Shamba and a prison service employee, Ronen Cohen.

The cases against Shamba and Cohen are still pending. At the trial of Shamba's case last month, two former Israeli army major generals testified that under the circumstances, in the midst of a terrorist attack, Shamba had acted in a level-headed manner as would have been expected of a combat soldier.