On this day February 25, 1994

Israeli physician Baruch Goldstein opened fire on Muslim Arabs praying at the mosque in Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs, killing 29 people and wounding 125 others.

cave_of_the_patriarchsBaruch Goldstein, an Israeli-American settler, off-duty IDF army reservist and member of the extremist Kach movement, opened fire on the worshippers.

According to Israeli reports 29 Palestinians were killed and 125 wounded, while Palestinian sources stated that up to 52 people were shot to death.

Goldstein was also killed in the attack, which took place during the overlapping religious holidays of Purim and Ramadan. Israel harshly condemned the attack and promised to pay compensation to the families of the victims.

The Cave of the Patriarchs is divided into two sections, one for Jewish worshippers and the other for Muslim worshippers. The section for the Jewish worshippers includes the Abraham Hall, which is also used for brit milah ceremonies, and the Jacob Hall.

A Yeshivah has also been set up. Numerous Jewish religious services take place every day in this section of the Cave. The section for Muslim worshippers includes the much larger Isaac Hall. On ten days in the year the entire cave is reserved for the exclusive use of Jewish worshippers and on ten other days in the year for the exclusive use of Muslim worshippers.

At 05:00 a.m. on February 25, eight hundred Palestinian Muslims passed through the east gate of the cave to participate in Fajr, the first of the five daily Islamic prayers. The cave was under Israeli Army guard, but of the nine soldiers supposed to have been on duty, four were late turning up and only one officer was there.

Shortly afterwards Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish resident of the Kiryat Arba settlement and member of the extremist Kahanist movement, entered the Isaac Hall of the cave. He was dressed in his army uniform and carrying an IMI Galil assault rifle and four magazines of ammunition, which held 35 rounds each. He was not stopped by the guards, who assumed that he was an officer entering the tomb to pray in an adjacent chamber reserved for Jews.

Standing in front of the only exit from the cave and positioned to the rear of the Muslim worshippers, he opened fire with the weapon, killing 29 people and injuring another 125, that is 154 casualties with 140 rounds. He was eventually overwhelmed by survivors, who beat him to death. State Attorney Dorit Benish refused to prosecute those who killed Goldstein after disarming him.

Reports after the massacre were inevitably highly confused. In particular, there was uncertainty about whether Goldstein had acted alone; it was reported that eyewitnesses had seen “another man, also dressed as a soldier, handing him ammunition.”

There were also reports that he had thrown grenades into the worshippers.  The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat claimed that the attack was the work of up to 12 men, including Israeli troops. However, a preliminary Israeli Army investigation, and the more thorough commission later set up, found that there had been no use of grenades and that Goldstein had acted alone without the assistance or connivance of the Israeli guards posted at the cave.

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