The 48-year-old man, accused of threatening a worker at a local GMO branch, poured flammable liquid on himself and set his own body on fire during a hearing at the Be’er Sheva District Court. Medical officials said he suffered serious burns on the upper part of his body and was taken to Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva.
Ahmad Abu Allan, who attended a hearing in the next room, tried to cover the defendant with his jacket, while another man - Maher Abu Ayyash - threw a cape which he’d taken from one of the attorneys to douse the fire. Another lawyer then entered the courtroom, took out the fire extinguisher and put out the flames.
"I heard screams, ran outside and saw one woman running in one direction and the other in another," said Abu Allan. “I ran into the hall and saw a man convulsing on the floor, he was on fire and was calling for his mother.”
“I went outside looking for clothes. I saw a man with a jacket, grabbed it, and ran back inside to put out the flames with it.”
Abu Ayyash and other eyewitnesses criticized the conduct of the security guards, who they claim were nowhere to be seen as the incident was happening.
"He just took out a bottle, poured it on himself and set it on fire," said Ismail Al-Hubara, another eyewitness. "There were no security guards at all … there were screams and we saw smoke. It lasted a few seconds.”
The Be’er Sheva resident is suspected of throwing documents at a medical secretary, telling her: "I'll show you what it is, call security and see what it’s going to be like here." He attended Sunday’s hearing to strike a plea deal and it’s unclear why he decided to set himself on fire.
"When we arrived at the scene, we saw a man lying on the floor fully conscious, suffering from severe burns throughout his body,” said Meir Lasri, a Magen David Adom paramedic. “We provided him with life-saving medical treatment that included anesthesia … and took him in a serious condition to the hospital."