Preliminary Report on the Events in Hebron
as presented by
Commanding Officer of the Central Command General Dani Yatom
Before the Diplomatic Corps
Tel Aviv, 26 February 1994
The Cave of the Patriarchs - General Background
In Hebron, there are several places where Jews and Arabs live together
in close proximity. In particular, in the center of the city itself,
where Jews and Palestinian Muslims, are very close to each other. One of
the places where Jews and Muslims gather together from time to time is
the Cave of the Patriarchs, the traditional site of the tomb of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob.
For many years, there have prevailed established procedures regarding
the way Muslims and Jews pray there. These procedures are maintained by
the Israeli Civil Administration and the Muslim Religious Authority, the
Waqf, which is the Muslim party responsible for religious affairs in
Judea and Samaria. The procedures are not new and have been in effect
for a number of years.
It is agreed that there are three ways, or three categories. It depends
on the day of the year, and it depends on the feast if it a Jewish
festival or a Muslim festival and there are special arrangements for
each event and for each festival.
We must recall that we are now in the month of Ramadan, the holy month
of the Muslims. There are religious observances which are carried out by
the Israelis, the Jews. As a result of the different observances, there
are prayer arrangements by which there are some days that Jewish people
and Muslims pray together in the same place, in the same cave either
in separate rooms, or even in the same room separated by a barrier,
something which you can move from one place to another.
Yesterday morning, there were two groups praying simultaneously together
in separate rooms about 15 or 20 Jewish people were praying in a room
called the the Room of Abraham; and in the other, there were about
300-400 Muslims who were praying in the Room of Isaac. There was another
group, which mainly consisted of women, Muslim women, which were praying
also, but in a separate third room.
At the cave itself, at the holy place itself, the Jews enter from one
gate, the Muslims enter from another gate, but they are very close to
each other while they are praying. There is only a wall, with several
doors, which separates one room from the other.
The Events at the Cave of the Patriarchs - 25 February
At about 5:30 in the morning, the assailant, a man by the name of Dr.
Goldstein, entered the holy site. He was known to the soldiers because
he is a doctor. He is a physician, not only in Kiryat Arba (a Jewish
town bordering Hebron), but also he is a physician in the reserves. In
fact, in many of the latest terrorist attacks against Jews, he was one
of the first to appear in order to give first aid. And it was not
unusual when he appeared dressed in his uniform with his rank in the
reserve. He was a captain, a medical officer in the reserves.
There were several soldiers as usual at the site. On this morning, due
to several reasons, there were about three soldiers less than usual in
the cave itself, within the structure. But there were some others, as
usual, in very close proximity, next to the site.
He entered the place where Jews were praying, and after a short period
of time, the soldiers that we questioned suddenly heard somebody
shooting, in long bursts.
They tried to enter the hall where the Muslims were praying. There was
one officer, a first lieutenant, who tried to enter through the door
near which he was positioned before the event itself took place. He
could not enter, because those Muslim worshippers who had been praying
in the hall started to run out through the same door - they blocked the
entrance and pushed him away.
So he ran to another entrance, and tried to enter the hall through the
room where the Jews were praying. It was blocked by the Palestinians
because they were afraid that maybe somebody else was trying to enter
the room and shoot at them. So he ran to the third room, to the third
door, and tried to enter through the third door, and the same thing
happened. He could not enter.
Then he ran back to the first door, where he was standing before. It was
after maybe three minutes, maybe two minutes, and it was all over. Only
then was he able to enter. By that time, most of the people were running
away carrying those killed and wounded.
What he found in the hall were some Palestinians who were still there,
and the assailant who was dead. He may have committed suicide this is
all we know now. The matter is still under investigation, but there are
several accounts from witnesses that after he shot the Palestinians, he
shot himself, committing suicide.
We have also found the gun that he used. Apparently, he fired more than
one hundred bullets. But you know that while firing and squeezing the
trigger, it takes only several seconds to empty a magazine. It appears
that he fired about three and one half magazines.
Disturbances following the Shooting
Disturbances started immediately following the shooting. Next to the
El-Ahali Hospital, which is adjacent to one of the central
intersections, in the northern part of Hebron, there was one such
disturbance. The main road was blocked, and large rocks were thrown by
hundreds of Palestinians. We have heard some claims, that in this event
which occurred next to the hospital, some other Palestinians got killed.
As far as I know until now, it is not true, but I am not completely
sure. We ordered an investigation in order to find out what happened
over there, and I think that we will know much more details in the
I have been told that a letter from the assailant was found. In the
letter I did not see the letter, it is something reported to me by
the police detective who is heading the team which is investigating the
issue it is written that he is liable to do something terrible.
A few hours after the event, we began heavy reinforcement of our forces
in the Hebron area, and in the rest of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza
Strip. We ordered a curfew of Hebron. We also closed the areas where the
Israelis are living, preventing them from leaving the area both in
Kiryat Arba and in the Israeli complexes within the city of Hebron.
There were a series of violent incidents both in the Gaza Strip and in
many other villages, and in some cities in Judea and Samaria. As a
result of which, yesterday, five Palestinians lost their lives. And
today, another three in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and one in
eastern Jerusalem. We ordered our soldiers to be as restrained as
possible, and to try not to use weapons unless they are physically