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Bat Ayin axe attack
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The attack site
Location Bat Ayin, West Bank
Date April 2, 2009
Attack type
Axe attack
Weapons Pickaxe and a knife[1]
Deaths a 13-year-old Israeli civilian (Shlomo Nativ)
Non-fatal injuries
3 Israeli children (1 seriously injured)
Perpetrators Lone Palestinian assailant (Moussa Tayet). Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups claimed responsibility

The synagogue in Bat Ayin, near to where the attacks occurred

The Bat Ayin axe attack was an attack by a Palestinian man that took place on 2 April 2009 in the West Bank, when Moussa Tayet attacked a group of Israeli children with an axe and a knife, killing 13-year-old boy Shlomo Nativ and seriously wounding 7-year-old boy Yair Gamliel, in the Israeli settlement of Bat Ayin.[2][3][4]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, as did two obscure Palestinian groups. On 14 April, Israeli security forces arrested Tayet, of Khirbet Safa; he later confessed to the killing. Israeli authorities stated that Tayet had no links to any organized militant groups.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack, while the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas justified it.

The attack

The attack took place on Thursday, 2 April 2009, during the Passover holiday. Around noon, a Palestinian militant entered the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, located between Jerusalem and Hebron, unhindered.[5] Although most Israeli settlements are surrounded by security fences, Bat Ayin residents had refused to build one, saying it would be a sign of weakness.[6]

Around 12:00 (local time) the assailant proceeded to attack a group of Jewish children playing tennis near the local cultural center with a pickaxe and a knife.[1] He killed 13-year-old Israeli boy Shlomo Nativ and fractured the skull of 7-year-old boy Yair Gamliel, seriously wounding him. A third boy managed to escape.[1][2] Emergency rescue workers from Magen David Adom who arrived at the scene stated that Nativ had managed to get to his home located right across the street, leaving behind a trail of blood, but died of his injuries despite his brother's attempts to resuscitate him.[4] Gamliel was evacuated to Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Karem in Jerusalem, where he underwent an operation.[4]

45-year-old resident Avinoam Maymon,[7] a passerby who saw the assailant running after the younger boy,[8] managed to forcibly remove the weapon from his hand while he tried to stab him. Witnesses reported that the attacker acted wildly and continued to attack passersby before fleeing the area. Gush Etzion Regional Council Mayor Shaul Goldstein said Bat Ayin's security squad managed to shoot and hit the assailant, but he managed to escape to a neighboring Arab village, leaving the pickaxe behind.[1][9]

Subsequent events

Nativ was buried in the Kfar Etzion cemetery that evening.[8] Hundreds of people attended his funeral.

The attack triggered clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians which were halted only after Israeli military intervention.[10]

Claims of responsibility

Less than an hour after the attack, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.[8] The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah political party, also claimed responsibility for the attack.[11]

A little-known Palestinian militant group calling itself the "Martyrs of Imad Mughniyeh" also claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that Palestinian Islamic Jihad was also involved. Imad Mughniya was a Hezbollah commander killed in Syria in 2008. But Israeli defense officials believed the group is merely a name used by other Palestinian militant groups to avoid Israeli reprisals.[6] The group excused its delay in claiming responsibility by citing "security reasons."[12]

A previously unknown Palestinian militant group calling itself "the Palestine Strugglers Army" also claimed to have orchestrated the attack.[13]

Capturing of the perpetrator

Following the attack, the IDF launched a manhunt for the perpetrator, and boosted security and set up roadblocks throughout communities in the region.[4]

On the evening of 14 April, Israeli security forces captured alleged perpetrator Moussa Tayet, a 26-year-old Palestinian resident of Khirbet Safa, after receiving information he was hiding in Beit Ummar, located south of Bethlehem.[3]

During questioning, Tayet confessed to the killing and re-enacted the incident from the planning stage until he fled the scene. He stated that he had committed the act for religious reasons, adding that he had wanted to be a martyr and had written a will 10 days before carrying out the attack. Tayet also led the investigators to the weapons he had hidden in the field after the killing and handed over the knife he used in the attack.[1][3] In addition, Tayet said that he had acquired the ax two weeks before the attack.[14]

Israeli officials stated that Tayet had no links to any organized militant groups.[3] Also, a Palestinian security official told the newspaper Yedioth Ahronot that a Palestinian Authority investigation into the attack determined that the perpetrator was working alone.[4]

Official reactions



  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying he viewed the attack with "utmost gravity," and directing the security services to take all steps necessary to apprehend the murderer.[2]
  • Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said, "The new Israeli government will have a zero tolerance policy toward these sorts of attacks and will refuse to accept them as routine" and that" the Palestinian leadership must both in word and in deed too have a zero tolerance policy to this sort of attack to demonstrate its commitment to peace and reconciliation."[6]


  • France France's Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner condemned the attack, calling it a "barbaric act" and saying that "France is horrified by this terrorist attack."[15]


  • A Hamas spokesman described the attack as "a natural reaction ... especially against the backdrop of Israeli attacks. We are a people occupied, and it is our right to defend ourselves and to act in every way and with every means at our disposal in order to defend ourselves."[8]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Israel detains suspect in West Bank ax attack, Associated Press (reprinted on 26-04-2009)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 IDF hunts for ax-wielding terrorist, Jerusalem Post 03-04-2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Pickax Murderer Of Jewish Teen Wanted To Be A Martyr, Philadelphia Bulletin 28-04-2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Teen killed in West Bank terror attack, Ynet News 02-04-2009
  5. "Israel detains suspect in West Bank ax attack". Associated Press. MSNBC. April 4, 2009. Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Israeli youth killed in West Bank pickax attack, Associated Press (reprinted on 02-04-2009)
  7. Israeli boy, 13, killed by axe-wielding Palestinian in West Bank, The Telegraph 02-04-2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Army searches for Bat Ayin terrorist, Jerusalem Post 02-04-2009
  9. Teen dies in West Bank ax attack, UPI 02-04-2009
  10. Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies. CQ Researcher. p.223. SAGE Publications, 2011. ISBN 9781412992916
  11. "Youth killed, child injured in West Bank axe attack". ABC News. May 26, 2009. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  12. "Unknown militant group claims to have orchestrated Bat Ayin "axe attack"". Ma'an News Agency. April 4, 2000. Retrieved August 28, 2012. 
  13. Unknown militant group claims to have orchestrated Bat Ayin "axe attack", Ma'an News 04-04-2009
  14. Harel, Amos (April 26, 2009). "Shin Bet: We've caught Bat Ayin axe terrorist". Haaretz. Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  15. "Франция осудила варварский акт палестинского террора". Media International Group. April 3, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 

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