Eight Students Killed at Jerusalem Religious School Library

Eight Students Killed at Jerusalem Religious School Library

A lone gunman armed with an AK-47 assault rifle and pistol entered the library of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem March 6 and sprayed bullets around the crowded room, killing eight students and wounding 10. The attacker, identified as an Arab resident of East Jerusalem named Ala’ Abu Dhaim (or Dhein), was shot twice 10 minutes later at the library entrance by student Yitzhak Dadon, immobilizing him until an Israeli Defense Forces soldier arrived and killed him, Haaretz reported March 7.

Survivors described the scene in the library as terrifying, with students jumping out of the windows to escape. “The whole building looked like a slaughterhouse,” said Yehuda Meshi Zahav, head of the Zaka Rescue Service. “The floors are littered with holy books covered in blood.” Three of the victims were rabbinical students, while the other five attended the yeshiva high school.

Knesset member Effi Eitam, who had been a student at Mercaz HaRav 30 years earlier, said that whoever chose the yeshiva as a terrorist target “knew it was the heart of national Zionism.” Arutz Sheva News noted that virtually every religious-Zionist yeshiva in the country was founded or staffed by former Mercaz HaRav students.

The military wing of the Palestinian Hamas organization initially claimed responsibility for planning the shooting on Al-Aqsa radio March 7, but retracted the claim less than two hours later. The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency received an unconfirmed report that the attack was planned by militants loosely associated with a group called Ahrar Al-Jalil, or the Galilee Freedom Battalion, while the online YnetNews on March 7 quoted Palestinian officials as saying that the gunman had a connection to the Lebanon-based paramilitary organization Hezbollah.

Haaretz reported that several residents of East Jerusalem identified Dhaim as a former driver for the yeshiva. Police said he had entered the school with the guns hidden in a cardboard box, while other witnesses said he had been dressed as a yeshiva student.

The attack drew international condemnation from President Bush, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and other leaders.

Posted on March 7, 2008. Discuss.