Jewish institutions worldwide beef up security after shooting attack in France (HAīARETZ NEWS) By Anshel Pfeffer 03/20/12)
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TOULOUSE, France - Jewish institutions around the world are stepping
up security after a gunman killed four people - three of them
children - at a Jewish school in the southwestern French city of
French police reopened the area where four people were killed shortly
after 8:00 A.M. outside a Jewish school on Monday, and are
investigating whether the gun used for the murder of a rabbi and
three children was also used to murder two Muslim French paratroopers
"All the shooting took less than a minute," said Baruch Sabag, a
teacher at the Jewish school who ran inside the building along with
some 100 children and teachers who were standing in the courtyard
when the shooting took place. "We hid in the building as soon as we
heard the shots and only after ten minutes, when the police arrived,
were we told we could go outside."
"We didnít know what was going on," said David Gadage, a parent of
one of the school´s students. "We had only just heard gunshots and
within seconds the terrorist had disappeared. We are all in a state
of shock right now. This is a quiet area and there have never been
problems of anti-Semitism here before. We actually moved here because
of the area´s peacefulness and because, unlike in other places, there
are no problems here with the Muslim immigrants."
Initial ballistic investigations suggest that the gun used in Monday
morning´s attack was the same gun used to murder two French
paratroopers last week, and was apparently used in a similar way.
Four days ago, two paratroopers were killed in nearby Montauban, and
another paratrooper was killed eight days ago in Toulouse. The dead
and injured were all of North African and Caribbean origin.
The fact that some of the soldiers were of North African descent led
French police to investigate the possibility that the perpetrators of
Monday´s attack were former soldiers who are members of a Neo-Nazi
group. Another possibility being investigated is that a radical
Islamic group is responsible for the attack, yet as of Monday night
no organization has claimed responsibility.
Toulouse´s Roseraie quarter, where the Jewish school is situated, is
a quiet middle-class area, not far from the city center. The
neighborhood is home to a Jewish community of about 20,000 people.
The school also serves as a local synagogue and the site is home to a
kollel for avrechim (a yeshiva for married students), who also work
as teachers at the school.
About 200 students study at the small, private, religious school,
which has no exterior signage to indicate that it is a Jewish
institution. Intelligence work was apparently undertaken prior to the
attack. The gunman took advantage of the fact that, despite the tall
gates surrounding the school and security cameras at the entrance, no
security guard was standing at the site. In the past, French schools
were appointed armed security guards but a few months ago it was
decided to decrease that level of security and cancel the guards.
Guy Ben-Sasson, a member of the Jewish community that arrived at the
school minutes after the attack with two children who study there,
said, "We are terribly disappointed with the police and community who
did not ensure the [school was] better secured. This is a problem for
the Jews, but not only for the Jews. There is an armed, possibly
crazy man at large in this city and no one knows who it is. We have
always felt safe here and now there´s a sense that we have been
turned into targets."
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the
attack as a "despicable murder," and said he is certain that French
President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government "will do everything in
their power to find the murderer." Netanyahu added, "I promise that
Israel will help France in this task."
The shooting on Monday took place near a synagogue on the campus of
the Otzar Hatorah school, where children and their parents usually
wait for a bus that takes them to the various Jewish preschools in
the area. The victim, Jonathan Sandler, a Jewish studies teacher at
the school, was waiting for the bus with his two children when the
shooting occurred. French prosecutor Michel Valet said that those
killed were Sandler, 30, and his 3-year-old and 6-year-old sons. He
said another child, between 8 and 10 years old, was also killed, and
a 17-year-old seriously wounded.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "the Israeli
Embassy in Paris, as well as the Israeli Consulate in Marseille, have
contacted the bereaved families and learned of their desire to bring
their loved ones to Israel for burial. The Government of Israel has
therefore decided to transfer the coffins to Israel as soon as
possible, with the cooperation and assistance of Israel´s
representatives in France and in coordination with the French
authorities." (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 03/20/12)
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