Dolphinarium discotheque massacre

Coordinates: 32°04′02″N 34°45′42″E / 32.06722°N 34.76167°E / 32.06722; 34.76167
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Dolphinarium suicide bombing
Part of the Second Intifada
The attack scene
The attack site is located in Tel Aviv
The attack site
The attack site
The attack site is located in Central Israel
The attack site
The attack site
Native nameהפיגוע בדולפינריום
LocationTel Aviv, Israel
Coordinates32°04′02″N 34°45′42″E / 32.06722°N 34.76167°E / 32.06722; 34.76167
DateJune 1, 2001; 22 years ago (2001-06-01)
23:27 pm (UTC+3)
Attack type
Suicide bombing
Weapon2.5 kilograms (5.5 lb) explosive device
Deaths21 (+1 attacker)
AssailantSaeed Hotari
English inscription on the back of the Dolphinarium massacre memorial

On 1 June 2001, a Hamas-affiliated terrorist blew himself up outside the Dolphinarium discotheque on the beachfront in Tel Aviv, Israel, killing 21 Israelis, 16 of whom were teenagers.[1][2][3] The majority of the victims were Israeli teenage girls whose families had recently immigrated from the former Soviet Union.


Opened in 1981, the Dolphinarium was originally a mixed-use entertainment venue with the main attraction being shows of captive dolphins. The project was the initiative of architect Nahum Zolotov, who came up with the idea of a dolphin show in Tel Aviv and lined up Israeli businessmen and South African investors in support of his plan. The business ran into financial trouble after the South African investors were found to be using it as a money laundering operation and forced to leave the project. Without their financial support, the cost of running the expensive dolphin shows proved to be unsustainable and the business closed in 1985. The building was then used by a succession of businesses including nightclubs, movie theaters, catering halls, and sport shops, but with limited success. By 1993, the municipality was looking to demolish the structure.


Suicide bomber Saeed Hotari was standing in line on a Friday night in front of the Dolphinarium, when the area was packed with teenagers. Most of the crowd were young people from Russian-speaking families from the former Soviet Union, who were waiting for admission to a dance party at the Dolphin disco, and others were in line to enter the adjacent nightclub.[4] Survivors of the attack later described how the young Palestinian bomber appeared to taunt his victims before the explosion, wandering among them dressed in a disguise that led his victims to mistake him for an Orthodox Jew from Asia. Before detonating his bomb, he banged a drum packed with explosives and ball-bearings, while taunting his victims in Hebrew with the words "Something's going to happen".[5] At 23:27, he detonated his explosive device.[6] Witnesses claimed that body parts lay all over the area, and that bodies were piled one above another on the sidewalk before being collected. Many civilians in the vicinity of the bombing rushed to assist emergency services.

The suicide bombing followed a failed attack attempt on the same target five months earlier.[7]


Both Islamic Jihad and a group calling itself "Hezbollah-Palestine" originally claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, only to later retract the claims.[8] Later on it was revealed that the attack was carried out by Saeed Hotari, aged 22, a militant allegedly linked to the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas.[9]

Official reactions

Israeli officials called the attack a "massacre".[10] President of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat condemned the attack and called for a cease-fire.[11] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated that he "condemns this indiscriminate terrorist attack in the strongest possible terms." and that the attack "underlines the urgency of breaking the cycle of violence."[12] U.S. President George W. Bush stated that he condemns the attack in the strongest terms and that "There is no justification for senseless attacks against innocent civilians."[13]


A dolphin show at the dolphinarium in 1985

After the attack many in the Israeli public demanded a harsh military retaliation; nevertheless, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to not take any immediate retaliatory actions. U.S. and other governments applied heavy diplomatic pressure on Israel to refrain from action.[11]

In Ramallah dozens of Palestinians celebrated in the streets and fired in the air as a sign of celebration.[4] The bomber, Saeed Hotari, was praised as a martyr by his father.[9] U.S. President George W. Bush demanded that Yasser Arafat condemn the terrorist act, which he did.[14] The next day, Israeli-Arabs barricaded themselves in the Hassan Bek Mosque opposite the Dolphinarium site and threw objects at the police.[15]

According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli-based organization with close ties to the IDF, among the materials seized by the IDF in the course of Operation Defensive Shield were two documents issued by the Martyrs' Families and Injured Care Establishment, which is under the authority of the Palestinian National Authority's Ministry of Social Affairs. The documents detail the transfer of US$2,000 to the father of the suicide bomber, who was living in Jordan at that time (18 June 2001). According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the transfer was made despite the suicide bomber's Hamas affiliation, his father's public support of the attack, and Arafat's public condemnation of it.[16][17]


The ruins of the Dolphinarium in 2012; later demolished in 2018

After the bombing, the Dolphinarium discotheque was abandoned and ended up being covered with graffiti. Its final use was as a surfing school. The building remained on the Tel Aviv beachfront until its demolition in May 2018.[18]

For many years, the victims' families campaigned to permanently preserve the ruined building as a monument to the attack. Eventually, the building was demolished in order to extend the promenade along the coast.[19] Memorial services to the victims of the attack were held every year at the site by friends and family of the victims.[15]

See also


  1. ^ O'Sullivan, Arieh (November 25, 2001). "No. 1 Hamas terrorist killed. Followers threaten revenge in Tel Aviv". Jerusalem Post. Archived from the original on October 23, 2012. Retrieved January 30, 2009.
  2. ^ Fisher, Ian (January 29, 2006). "In Hamas's Overt Hatred, Many Israelis See Hope". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2009.
  3. ^ Ynet – פיגוע בדולפינריום – ,; accessed 2 September 2015.
  4. ^ a b David Rudge (June 4, 2001). "Bomb horror hits Tel Aviv disco". Archived from the original on December 5, 2006. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  5. ^ Chris McGreal,3,000 dead yet peace remains elusive,, 29 September 2003.
  6. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "6 years to Tel-Aviv suicide bombing at the Dolphin disco". YouTube.
  7. ^ "Bloody Terrorist Attack in Tel Aviv – 18 Youth Killed" (in Hebrew). Ynet. June 2, 2001. Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  8. ^ Bomb horror hits Tel Aviv disco Archived May 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, The Jerusalem Post, 4 June 2001.
  9. ^ a b "Bomber went to West Bank for a better life". the Guardian. June 4, 2001. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  10. ^ Shalom, Silvan. "Q&A with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom", Haaretz, 8 May 2008.
  11. ^ a b Deborah Sontag, "Arafat Calls for Cease-Fire, Deploring Tel Aviv Attack", The New York Times, 3 June 2001.
  12. ^ Press Release SG/SM/7829 Archived June 9, 2012, at the Wayback Machine,, 1 June 2001.
  13. ^ "Israeli police: Four dead in Tel Aviv bombing". CNN. February 25, 2005. Archived from the original on October 10, 2012.
  14. ^ "Bush to Arafat: You Must Condemn This Terrible Attack" (in Hebrew). Ynet. June 2, 2001. Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  15. ^ a b 14 лет со дня чудовищного теракта в тель-авивском "Дольфи" 01.06.2015 22:41,
  16. ^ "The Palestinian Authority's support of Hamas' suicide terrorism". October 2004. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved May 4, 2008.
  17. ^ "The Palestinian Authority's support of Hamas' suicide terrorism". October 10, 2004. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  18. ^ Lidman, Melanie (May 16, 2018). "Show's over for Tel Aviv's Dolphinarium eyesore". Times of Israel. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  19. ^ [Decided the fate of Tel Aviv Dolphinarium Решилась судьба тель-авивского дельфинария] 27-12-2014, 01:30, ЛЕОНИД РАБИН

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