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Wadi Haramiya sniper attack
Part of Second Intifada
Date March 3, 2002
Location Wadi al-Haramiya Checkpoint near Ofra, West Bank, Palestinian territories
Flag of Israel Israel Tha’ir Kayid Hamad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades
Casualties and losses
2 officers, 5 soldiers killed
6 wounded
3 civilian Israeli settlers killed

Ten Israelis were killed in the Wadi al-Haramiya sniper attack on March 3, 2002. The lone sniper was 22 year old Tha’ir Kayid Hamad (Arabic language:ثائر كايد حماد‎), a member of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades from the village of Silwad. He had acquired an old Second World War M1 rifle and 300 rounds of ammunition and had done some target practise in the valleys around Silwad.


Wadi al-Haramiya (Arabic language:وادي الحرامية‎) is a valley between Ramallah and Nablus on the West Bank.

The IDF was maintaining a checkpoint at Uyoun al-Haramiya (the Wells of Haramiya), near the Israeli settlement Ofra, manned by a reserve company.

Before dawn on the morning of 3 March 2002 the sniper positioned himself under some olive trees on a hilltop overlooking the checkpoint. At 6:40 he opened fire at the three soldiers manning the checkpoint and the driver of a civilian car, which had stopped at the checkpoint. All four were killed within minutes. Nine Israeli soldiers were inside a barracks building. Platoon commander Lieutenant David Damlin and the unit's medic Yochai Porat emerged from the building to locate the shooter and assist the casualties. Both were shot to death. The remaining soldiers decided to stay inside the building and called for reinforcements.[1]

A patrol jeep that arrived with reinforcements immediately came under fire. The reserve company's sergeant, Avraham Ezra, was killed and several of his men were injured. The rest of the casualties occurred when randomly arriving civilian cars stopped at the checkpoint. Two civilian settlers and an IDF officer were killed.[1] Tha’ir Hamad claimed in an interview (obtained by unknown means from prison) that the settlers were armed and that one of them took aim at him but that he shot first. He also claimed that he refrained from harming an Israeli woman and her children, shouting at her in Hebrew and Arabic to leave the area.[2]

The Israelis never succeeded in locating the sniper's hiding place even after dispatching a helicopter. He had intended to continue shooting but when he fired his 25th bullet the old rifle exploded, making it useless. He was therefore forced to give up and returned to his village. Seven soldiers, two of them officers, and three civilian settlers were killed in the 25-minute attack. Another six Israelis were wounded, four of them seriously.[3]

al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the attack. Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti praised the attack. "Blessed be the fighting hands of the heroes, who dealt these blows to the army of occupation," he said.[3]

The Israeli authorities assumed that the shooter was a highly trained marksman from an elite unit, such as Force 17.[1][4] The average Palestinian militant could not be expected to hit 14 people with 25 bullets. Mossad also contacted European and American security agencies to help identify the killer. Mossad suspected that a member of the Irish Republican Army could be responsible for the act.[5]

Roughly two years after the incident Tha'ir Hamad was arrested.[6] He was sentenced to 11 life sentences.[4]

Haaretz veteran military correspondent Ze’ev Schiff called the incident “[o]ne of most stinging and bizarre fiascoes” of the IDF in the Second Intifada: “the entire incident can only be described as a massive blunder and a disgrace for the IDF. No excuse can be accepted. This sort of incident cannot be blamed on the lower ranks.”[7] Unfortunately this is just what happened. A series of investigations were carried out with the apparent purpose of exonerating the senior officers and putting the full blame on the soldiers at the checkpoint. The scandal led to a major overhaul of rules for IDF probes.[8]


IDF soldiers

  • Capt. Ariel Hovav, 25, of Eli[9]
  • Lt.(res.) David Damelin, 29, of Kibbutz Metzar[9]
  • 1st Sgt.(res.) Rafael Levy, 42, of Rishon LeZion[9]
  • Sgt.-Maj.(res.) Avraham Ezra, 38, of Kiryat Bialik[9]
  • Sgt.-Maj.(res.) Eran Gad, 24, of Rishon LeZion[9]
  • Sgt.-Maj.(res.) Yochai Porat, 26, of Kfar Saba[9]
  • Sgt.-Maj.(res.) Kfir Weiss, 24, of Beit Shemesh[9]

Civilian settlers

  • Sergei Birmov, 33, of Ariel[9]
  • Vadim Balagula, 32, of Ariel[9]
  • Didi Yitzhak, 66, of Eli[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Haaretz Staff (04.03.2002). "10 slain near Ofra; soldier dies in Gaza". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  2. "الأسير القنـاص البطل ثائر حماد / يروي من سجنه لأول مـرة كيف استطاع قتل 11 إسرائيلياً وجرح 8 آخرين فى عملية وادي الحراميـة (Imprisoned heroic sniper Tha’ir Hamad tells for the first time from his prison how he managed to kill 11 Israelis and wound 8 others in the Wadi al-Haramiya operation)". The Prisoners Centre for Studies. 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Amos Harel, Aliza Arbeli (2002-03-03). "Funerals held for two of 10 killed in W. Bank sniper attack". Ha'aretz. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kobi Ben-Simhon (24 November 2009). "I forgave him". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  5. Sean Rayment (10 March 2002). "IRA link to PLO examined in hunt for deadly sniper". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  6. Amos Harel (6 October 2004). "Sniper who killed 10 Israelis arrested". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 
  7. Ze'ev Schiff (04.03.2002). "IDF has yet to learn its roadblock lesson". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  8. Gideon Alon (2005-02-28). "An attack on IDF probes". Haaretz. Retrieved 2011-10-20. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 9.9 "Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000". MFA. Retrieved 2011-09-17. 

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