Ali Abu Dhaim hang in a
tent near his house in the East
Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal
Mukaber March 13, 2008. Abu Dhaim, who
killed eight Israelis in a seminary, has been buried
in the dead of night, after a delay because of fears by
Israeli authorities that a public funeral might trigger protests
and violence. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis (JERUSALEM)
Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International
A terrorist infiltrated and attacked the Inside the city, there are minimal checkpoints able to park the vehicle in the vicinity of the school.
and roadblocks. Outside, the city is surrounded Based on Abu Dhaim’s knowledge of the school
Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav Kook in the Kiryat by checkpoints and roadblocks as well as the layout, it is likely that he was aware of the loca-
security fence intended to keep terrorists from tion of the students and systematically advanced
Moshe neighborhood near the entrance to penetrating local towns and cities. floor-by-floor to the library. Upon approach to the
Jerusalem on Thursday, 06 March 2008 at library entrance, the attacker began his assault on
As a vehicle driver, Abu Dhaim may have trans- students that were outside of the room.
approximately 2045 local time. The attacker ported children to the targeted school (as well
opened fire with an automatic weapon and as other sites) on numerous occasions; thereby Response Phase
enabling him to identify potential targets. In
discharged large amounts of ammunition Israel there is a tendency for drivers to use The response by law enforcement and security
“minivan” vehicle services as an alternative form forces was immediate. Initial reports, relayed
on a study hall, killing eight people and of transportation (similar to a taxi cab service). to patrol units enroute to the scene, indicated
The vehicle that Abu Dhaim drove (Ford Transit) that this was an incident of “firecrackers.”
wounding 11. At the time of the attack, conformed to the environment (a vehicle com- Immediately, it was reassessed by civilians on
the students were about to begin a party mon for the transport of students) at all hours location as a terror related attack. Patrol, plain-
of the day and is a vehicle model widely seen clothes officers, and special tactical units were
celebrating Jewish period of happiness prior throughout the city. dispatched—operating under an active shooter
response. The priority response for incoming
to the holiday of Purim. Using deception Based on the terror operation, it is apparent police units to an active shooter scenario is to
and cover tactics, the adversary entered the attacker did extensive surveillance on the engage the shooter as fast as possible, pulling
location, and at all hours of the day and night, the fire away from civilians and toward the law
the facility and began firing at the students. in order to tactically identify the ideal moment enforcement officers. An off duty security officer
for assault. As a result of his planning and
The adversary was neutralized by security intelligence gathering, the terrorist was able
forces in the middle of his attack. The to choose the time and day when
there would be a large presence of
purpose of this paper is to discuss lessons students on location.
learned by law enforcement and emergency Tactics
medical services (EMS) when responding and Weaponry Based on the terror operation, it is
to an active shooter incident. The 26-year-old gunman had taken apparent the attacker did extensive
considerable time to plan his attack. surveillance on the location, and at all
Recent patterns of attacks inside
Adversary Background Jerusalem included simultaneous hours of the day and night, in order to
assaults of an educational institution
Since the shooting attack, it is known that Israeli and a police checkpoint. Such at- tactically identify the ideal moment for
police have arrested eight people. Currently, it tacks, utilizing all types of weapons, assault. As a result of his planning and
remains unclear whether the shooter had acted should be monitored in an attempt to
alone. The “Galilee Freedom Brigades,” an identify future patterns and reasons intelligence gathering, the terrorist was
Israeli-Arab group, has claimed responsibility for this type of assault as opposed
for the attack as a Hezbollah proxy. The mili- to explosive devices and suicide able to choose the time and day when
tary wing of the Hamas, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam bomber tactics. there would be a large presence of
Brigades, also claimed responsibility in a phone
call to the news agency, Reuters Group, PLC According to Israeli police, the students on location.
and announced over mosque loudspeakers in gunman had packed weapons and
the Gaza Strip. ammunition inside a cardboard
television box, allowing him to ad-
The attacker, Ala Abu Dhaim of East Jerusalem, vance to the target freely and without
engaged to be married, had not been known to alerting suspicion. There were initial
law enforcement and had apparently worked as a reports that students believed he was deliver-
driver for a number of private clients in the city. ing a package to the school. As the attacker
Recently, Abu Dhaim had become religious but advanced to the target, he was aware of the
he did not appear to have any affiliations with fact that, unlike most educational institutions
radical organizations. in the country, there was no security presence
at the entrance to the facility. Ultimately, he
Target Identification entered the school unchallenged. (R1), a neighbor of the school, was closest to the
scene. Upon hearing the shots fired, he went to
Abu Dhaim had a number of advantages that Attack Phase the school to engage the attacker.
enabled him to identify his target and effec-
tively gather thorough intelligence. Because he Leaving his place of residence with the weapons R1, familiar with ingress and egress points of
was a resident of Jerusalem, Abu Dhaim could (an AK-47, two handguns, ammunition, and a com- the building, entered the school through a rear
move throughout the city with minimal delays mando knife) the adversary advanced to the target door and began sweeping the facility, listening
at checkpoints established by Israeli authorities unhindered. He was familiar with the route, did not for the sound of the gunfire. A student of the
to identify adversaries entering into the city. require an escort to lead him to the site, and was seminary, who left the library 10-15 minutes
prior to the attack (R2), heard enter the hostile environment Israel National Police, under most
the shots and decided to take a or the need to acquire autho- mass casualty incidents, have
high ground position rization. been mandated to control overall
with his personal command of such a scene. The
weapon. Lying on Emergency medical establishment of an incident com-
the balcony of the personnel are acutely mand structure within the police
school, R2 awaited ...two terrorists dressed in security guard aware of the threats department includes operational
for an opportunity associated with the
when the attacker
uniforms infiltrated a religious school in a small entrance in to a hos-
units, investigatory offices, ex-
plosives experts, and intelligence
would enter his line community south of Jerusalem. The terrorists, tile scene until law units. Among the responsibilities
of site to employ le- armed...were challenged immediately by enforcement can as- for law enforcement personnel on
thal force against the sure scene safety. the location of a terror attack (and
gunmen[JDP1]. civilians on location and who opened fire on Such awareness al- at any other large incident) is the
the attackers. During the attack, the terrorists lows for the swift neutralization and rendering safe
The first arriving operational response
units included a
were able to stab two Israeli civilians, injuring by EMS personnel
of any imminent threats and the
establishment of secure perimeters
plainclothes unit them moderately. The civilians were able to in the evacuation for the first responders. Ingress
(R3) assigned to thwart a terror attack that could have had similar and rescue of the and egress to the scene, as well as
major crimes and injured. Likewise, between the scene and the medical
the Central Com- results as the Jerusalem school massacre, by law enforcement uti- treatment facilities, are secured by
mand of the National immediately interdicting with lethal force... lizes the maximum highway and patrol units.
Police. This unit amount of resources
immediately entered to secure the perim- Operating under these conditions,
the structure, as per History has shown that during an active shooter eters with a series of inter-agency training is a critical
police policy to ex- incident it is a matter of seconds, not minutes, that over watches, patrol, component to mitigation of the
peditiously engage checkpoints, and incident. Common inter-agency op-
the attacker. The off will determine the number of lives lost or at risk. plainclothes units. erating plans must be reviewed and
duty security officer Bomb squad units exercised at the command and field
(R1) arriving from and tactical teams levels in order to apply a measure
his home did not have operate with great speed of strategic response. Commanders
any means to readily iden- and discretionary caution. must display a level of confidence
tify himself upon entering the to ensure all active emergency
scene. As a result, the officer Results personnel are able to operate under
(R3) that entered the building clear guidelines for such a threat.
passed a police duty hat to R1 The quick response by law An active shooter response needs to
for identification. The primary enforcement and security be aggressive, mission specific, and
means of communication and building outside the main entrance. personnel possibly prevented a proactive to a situation where any
coordination between R1 and R3 Evacuation under gunfire was much worse scenario resulting delay only increases the adversary’s
were relayed verbally, while R3 begun by first arriving EMS units. in more casualties. First ar- success. A tactical concept that all
maintained communications via This was an attempt to maintain the riving law enforcement units responders must understand is the
the EOC’s dedicated emergency golden response rule of the evacua- immediately engaged the at- need to engage the attacker in order
channel. The terrorist was engaged tion of all non-ambulatory injured tacker with the assistance of to draw active gunfire away from
initially by R2 from a distance. R1, within 20 minutes. Jerusalem hos- an off duty soldier and student civilians. Such a concept should
from the hallway, eventually neu- pitals went on MCI (Mass Casualty already on location. The fear include clear operational guidelines
tralized the gunman in coordination Incident) alert status immediately of possible secondary attack- and policies, communications,
with R3 from the library study. upon notification of the shooting. e r s o r d e v i c e s o n l o c a t i o n which assist in mitigating injury to
Hospitals received timely updates was handled by teams that are civilians and emergency personnel.
In any terror related attack, Jeru- as to the medical evacuation sta- trained for clearing buildings When tactical decisions are made in
salem Police begin searching for tus by the Jerusalem Police EOC under similar circumstances. an instantaneous fashion, immedi-
additional attackers, secondary (Emergency Operations Center), Such teams include a tactical ate goals are met and the system
devices, and any accomplices flee- as well as from the Incident Com- element followed by explosive operates efficiently, with minimal
ing the scene. This includes the manders at the Unified Command ordinance technicians. loss and a quick return to normalcy
clearing of the entire building by established near the attack site. for citizens.
special teams comprised of tacti- Interactions between police and The established response plans as-
cal personnel and the bomb squad. EMS dealt with scene safety and sociated with all law enforcement Lessons Learned
It was initially believed there was suspicious items and individuals and EMS responders addressed the for American Law
at least one additional terrorist on identified by EMS. need for neutralization of the threat Enforcement
location, resulting in a delay of (active shooter) and the immediate
medical evacuation by EMS. All Medical response was initiated by evacuation of the injured from the To effectively respond to an active
additional threats were ruled out in EMS and incident command was scene. Rescue of the non-ambula- shooter incident, law enforcement
approximately two hours. established with law enforcement tory injured by medical personnel and EMS need to train and conduct
personnel taking primary scene com- is based on the need to remove the field exercises in conjunction with
Medical Response mand. The response was expedited injured from the scene of potential other relevant agencies. The need
by all agencies. The central EMS secondary threats, while minimiz- for first responders to aggressively
Approximately 50 EMS units re- headquarters was minutes away and ing the amount of time on location. respond to an active shooter inci-
sponded to the scene from the Jeru- the system was supported by a rapid This minimizes the amount of time dent requires that those responders
salem area. First arriving units were response of local volunteers. There needed to transfer the injured to and their respective agencies follow
met by fleeing students from the was no delay in organizing teams to a medical treatment facility. The guidelines that address the tactics, tech-
56 Vol.14, No.3
Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International
niques and procedures that support Officer safety has been and will In February, 1997 during the North Hollywood Shootout, the Los Angeles
such a response. continue to be a top priority for Police Department was clearly out-gunned by bank robbers Larry Phillips,
all law enforcement agencies and Jr. and Emil Matasareanu. The aggressive actions of the patrol officers
A case study, pointing to the need tactical organizations. However, held the robbers at bay, preventing their escape, and eventually brought
for enhanced training exercises is the law enforcement community about their demise.
the Trolley Square Mall shooting must weigh officer safety against
that occurred in Salt Lake City, the loss of civilian lives in an active Those actions saved innocent lives and improved critical response time
Utah on 12 February 2007. In this shooter incident. The Columbine for responding police assets. Through proper training and the issuing of
case, the aggressive actions of a lone High School Massacre in April, necessary equipment (tactical rifles/shotguns w/slings, light systems for
off duty officer diverted the deadly 1999 forced law enforcement to re- all weapons and mechanical breaching tools for patrol) law enforcement
actions of the active shooter away evaluate its response protocols to the personnel will be able to respond immediately to such incidents like the
from civilians and towards himself. active shooter and new tactics have North Hollywood Shootout, allowing them to save lives.
This action resulted in the saving of since evolved to address the issue.
numerous civilian lives and assisted Now, after almost ten years of ad- By no means are we advocating that law enforcement agencies discard
law enforcement by pinning down dressing the tactical issues of active their current active shooter training programs. In fact, current poli-
the shooter until a tactical response shooter incidents, law enforcement cies and procedures support the very tactics we are advocating. For
was organized. and the civilian communities must example, when an officer responding to an active shooter incident
address the lessons learned from moves towards the gunfire and the gunfire subsequently ceases, we
On 24 January 2008, at approxi- these incidents and re-evaluate their do not advocate that the officer transition into a lone officer search
mately 2200 hours local time, two current tactics and procedures. mode. The officer should hold a position of cover nearest to the area
terrorists dressed in security guard where they last heard gunfire. The officer should request assistance
uniforms infiltrated a religious The law enforcement community at their location, and when assistance arrives, begin searching for the
school in a small community south should consider a more aggressive suspect. While waiting for assistance, if the suspect becomes active
of Jerusalem. The terrorists, armed response to an active shooter inci- and engages in deadly behavior, the officer should move toward the
with what appeared to be a firearm dent which may require a one or two gun fire and neutralize the threat. Likewise, if the active shooter takes
and sharp instruments, were chal- person response team to engage the a hostage and becomes barricaded in a position of advantage, the of-
lenged immediately by civilians threat. This response may need to be ficer should follow their department’s barricaded suspect protocol. If
on location and who opened fire carried out by a SRO, patrol officer, the situation were to become prolonged and as other officers arrive
on the attackers. During the at- or an off duty officer. When seconds on location, the officer would then transition into a contact/rescue
tack, the terrorists were able to make the difference in saving lives, team configuration.
stab two Israeli civilians, injuring officers can no longer afford to wait
them moderately. The civilians minutes for back-up units to arrive. The following key recommendations are derived from the Yeshivat Merkaz
were able to thwart a terror attack Law enforcement officers have a HaRav Kook shooting incident:
that could have had similar results proud tradition and moral obligation 1. Regular training sessions can assist in preparing for the proper response
as the Jerusalem school massacre, that puts them at risk to save the and ease the coordination and collaboration of the responding agencies.
by immediately interdicting with lives of innocent civilians. Training should include techniques to identify plainclothes officers
lethal force. and off-duty officers operating in such an arena.
Discussion 2. Immediate response considerations need to address fleeing suspects
History has shown that during an within the crowd of victims.
active shooter incident it is a matter The authors of this article recognize 3. Clear training, policies, and procedures need to address the engaging
of seconds, not minutes, that will the inherent risk to police officers of the attacker through the basic tactical principles of “speed, surprise
determine the number of lives lost while implementing these tactics, and violence of action.”
or at risk. Therefore, the current but we believe that those risks can be • Tactical movement of officers.
industry standard for patrol re- minimized if officers adhere to the • Police vs. police crossfire issues.
sponse to an active shooter incident following basic tactical principles • Appropriate weaponry and equipment to engage the threat.
should be re-examined. Most law of “speed, surprise, and violence • Tactical rifles/shotguns w/slings.
enforcement agencies and tactical of action.” • Light systems for all weapons.
organizations have trained police • Additional ammunition and magazines .
personnel in rapid response to active There are also some common sense • Mechanical breaching tools .
shooter drills. These drills have been actions that need to occur prior to 4. Different response scenarios should be addressed both at the policy and
focused on a team concept (three to officer response. Once the arriving procedure stages as well as “going out” and testing the plan.
four person configurations). Some officer has assessed the situation, 5. Success is dependent upon a number of considerations which include
considerations of implementing a formulated an action plan, steps inter-agency cooperation between all of the relevant agencies at all
one or two officer team response must be taken to communicate levels of incident command. In addition, there is an inherent need to
have been discussed and even their tactics to other responders. initiate an expedited dissemination of information to other security
trained, but the lingering discus- This can be accomplished by police agencies assisting in the interdiction of the threat.
sion of “officer safety” continues radio, cell phone[JDP2] or through 6. Regular inter-agency training, with open dialogue and cooperation
to surface. Many law enforcement a third party (i.e. victim/witness). between all agencies, clear planning, and effective communications
agencies and tactical organizations This action – identification of non- using incident command.
have adopted the three to four team uniformed personnel – is especially 7. Command level ability to make strategic and tactical decisions based
concept to maximize officer safety. critical for off-duty personnel and on the needs of the district, and the specific incident.
This response was designed under plain clothes officers. 8. Planning must include clear guidelines for perimeter security, security
the premise that in an active shooter at other sensitive locations, as well as medical treatment facilities and
incident the first responder at or on In the assessment process, each the protection of staging points.
the scene is going to be a School Re- officer should make an evaluation 9. Training and exercise objectives should include an evaluation of emer-
source Officer (SRO) or a patrol of- of the threat and their ability to gency communications between agencies for evacuation of personnel
ficer. This was designed for officers neutralize the threat. The possibility from unsafe scenes. Communication procedures should include the
who have less tactical training than of multiple suspects with automatic integration of plainclothes officers, off-duty officers, and other
SWAT team personnel and who need weapons should be assumed but relevant agencies.
to deploy in a team configuration to should not prevent a rapid response
maximize their own safety. by law enforcement. For more information about ITRR vist: www.terrorresponse.org