Israel Police and the Military Police have launched a joint investigation into Wednesday night’s fatal shooting of a yeshiva student by Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem. The student, in his 30s and a veteran of an ultra-Orthodox IDF unit, was suspected of being a terrorist after reportedly trying to steal the weapon of one of the soldiers on Yirmiyahu Street, near the city’s central bus station.
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The soldiers involved will be summoned for questioning. The Israel Defense Forces spokesman confirmed that the shots were fired by a soldier and “that the details are under investigation by the security forces,” adding that “the circumstances of the shooting are being examined.”
Police sources said the initial investigation indicates that two soldiers who were deployed to reinforce security forces in the city tried to get on a bus but a man getting off the bus asked them for identification. The two soldiers then sought to question him. They said he then punched them, at which point they said they tried to subdue him. During the confrontation, the man tried to take one of the soldiers’ weapons, they said, while shouting, “I’m ISIS,” a reference to the Islamic State terrorist organization. In response, the soldiers and a security guard in the vicinity shot at him.
The yeshiva student immigrated to Israel more than 10 years ago from Uzbekistan, according to a number of sources, and also worked as a security guard following his military service. A rabbi at his yeshiva called the incident “a foolish and tragic mistake.”
Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, chairman of Zaka, which provides assistance at the site of terrorist attacks, said when he got to the scene of the incident it appeared to be a “routine” terrorist attack like other recent incidents — an attempted stabbing after which a terrorist was killed.
Zaka collects body parts for proper burial and uses black body bags for the remains of terrorists. “I asked to have the body covered with a black bag,” Meshi-Zahav said. “After I was asked to deal with the body, I saw that it was that of a Jew and that it was a mistake [to think] he was a terrorist. I immediately informed the police and switched to a white Zaka bag.”
The Zaka chairman made note of the terrorist attack at the Be’er Sheva central bus station on Sunday, during which an Eritrean asylum seeker was killed after being mistakenly identified as the terrorist and shot. He was also beaten by bystanders. “I call on anyone who has a weapon to exercise added judgment,” Meshi-Zahav urged.
On Wednesday, four suspects were arrested in connection with the lynching of the Eritrean, Habtom Zarhum. They were released on bail with restrictive conditions on Thursday. The coroner’s office announced on Wednesday that Zarhum had died from his bullet wounds and not from the beatings that he sustained. The autopsy revealed that he had been hit by eight bullets, two of which were fatal.
Following the release of the autopsy report, police arrested the four suspects, two of whom are employees of the Israel Prison Service in the south. One is an officer. The suspects were due in court Thursday, and police said the prosecutor’s office is seeking to have them released with limitations placed on their movement.