An Israeli man who tried to fight off the terrorists at the Sarona Market complex in Tel Aviv two weeks ago was released from hospital this week, with a bullet fragment still lodged in his body.
Hagai Klein was shot twice during the shooting attack at the Max Brenner cafe at the plaza on June 8, once in the chest — a near-fatal wound, and once in the thigh.
Four Israelis were killed in the terror attack, perpetrated by two Palestinian cousins from the West Bank village of Yatta.
Klein was seen in surveillance footage running at one of the shooters with a chair in hand before being shot and fleeing the other way. He can be seen in a blue shirt in the footage from the attack below. Warning: Graphic content.
“I knew there was a chance I would pay with my life. I remember that half a second before [charging] when you [say to yourself] ‘you understand what this means,’ [but] you know what the right thing is to do, the question is if you have the courage to do it,” Klein told Channel 2 from his hospital bed at Ichilov Hospital this week.
Klein grew up in an ultra-Orthodox home in Petah Tikva, before leaving that world 15 years ago, signing up for the army and working as a private security guard in Jerusalem. In recent years, he left Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, where he works in the advertising field.
On the night of the attack, Klein was at the Max Brenner cafe reading a book and awaiting his order when the first shot rang out.
“I see people running, I see a man in a suit, I recognize [his weapon as] a Carl Gustav, and it looked to me like he was loading a magazine,” Klein recalled, later noting that the shooter wasn’t in fact loading, he was dealing with a weapons jam.
“At that moment, I think it’s a crazy person, it doesn’t cross my mind that he’s a terrorist,” he said, “but it’s clear I had to make contact to stop the incident.”
Klein said he made up his mind to try to charge a potential attacker should he be in such a situation months ago, after he saw how another unarmed Israeli charged two terrorists in an attack at a supermarket in the West Bank.
Staff Sgt. Tuvia Yanai Weissman had been shopping with his family in Shaar Binyamin on February 18, when two Palestinian terrorists began attacking customers. The 21-year-old off-duty soldier and another man were seriously wounded in the attack; doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center pronounced Weissman dead a few hours later.
Weissman was off-duty at the time, without a service weapon, and fought the attackers barehanded.
Klein said he vowed to himself that he would aim to react like Weissman.
He told Channel 2 that he did not immediately realize there were two attackers and he does not know what he would have done if he had known.
Klein was told by doctors that he was very lucky the bullet wound he sustained in the attack missed vital organs — even as there was some damage to his liver. Doctors said the bullet fragment now lodged in his stomach area would find its way out of his body and instructed him to come back should he feel it bulging out.
Forty-two-year-old Ido Ben Ari from Ramat Gan, 39-year-old Ilana Naveh from Tel Aviv, 58-year-old Michael Feige from Ramat Gan and 32-year-old Mila Mishayev from Rishon Lezion were killed the attack at Sarona. Sixteen others were injured.
Since October, 33 Israelis and four others have been killed and hundreds more injured in the spate of attacks, though the violence had dramatically waned of late. Some 200 Palestinians have also been killed, some two-thirds of them while carrying out attacks and the rest in clashes with troops, Israeli officials say.