Home  > Historical Perspectives
Sarkozy: Anti-Semitic motive in Toulouse shooting obvious (TIMES OF ISRAEL) By RAPHAEL AHREN 03/19/12)Source: http://www.timesofisrael.com/four-gunned-down-at-jewish-school-in-toulouse-sarkozy-mourns-national-tragedy/ TIMES OF ISRAEL TIMES OF ISRAEL Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two sons and another girl gunned down; All four were dual Israeli-French citizens; initial reports point to member of neo-Nazi gang

A rabbi, his two young sons and another young girl were shot and killed at a Jewish school in the French city of Toulouse on Monday morning.

Several more people were injured in the shooting, which police indicated last night might have been carried out by a member of a neo- Nazi gang.

At around 8 a.m., with more than 100 students and other worshippers inside a synagogue adjoining the Ozar Hatorah school, the gunman coolly got off his motorbike. He opened fire at 30-year-old Jonathan Sandler, a rabbi who taught at the school, and his sons, 4-year-old Gabriel and 5-year-old Arieh, while they waited for a bus to a Jewish primary school across town.

As the shots rang out, panicked students darted inside the school grounds and the attacker chased them, witnesses said. At one point, he grabbed the principal’s 7-year-old daughter, Miriam Monsonego, by her hair, shot her in the head and fled.

Cries of, “There are shots! there are shots!” rang out in the synagogue, recalled a 29-year-old neighbor who gave only his first name, Baroukh. He said some children took refuge in a basement.

Nicole Yardeni, a local Jewish official who saw security video of the attack, described the shooter as “determined, athletic and well- toned.” She said he wore a helmet with the visor down.

The gunman was still at large on Monday night. France’s Ambassador in Israel, Christophe Bigot, said the “crazy killer” may have been involved in two previous fatal shootings.

All of the dead were dual Israeli-French citizens, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. By 8 p.m., as a dozen police blocked access to the school, cries again echoed from within as community members mourned over the victims’ bodies before they were to be flown to Israel for burial.

The bodies of the four victims were brought to the school Monday night for a vigil service where thousands of community members and others gathered to recite Psalms.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, his Prime Minister François Fillon and other senior officials attended a ceremony at Paris’s Nazareth Synagogue on Monday evening, reciting Psalms in honor of the victims.

Sarkozy ordered all French schools to observe a moment of silence on Tuesday in memory of the victims of the deadly shooting spree, which he called “a national tragedy.”

He vowed on Monday night to use “all available resources” to bring the perpetrators to justice, and said he was utilizing France’s anti- terror mechanisms, raising the national security alert level, and bolstering security at all Jewish and Muslim facilities.

“Of course, by attacking children and a teacher who were Jewish, the anti-Semitic motivation appears obvious,” Sarkozy said. “Regarding our soldiers, we can imagine that racism and murderous madness are in this case linked.”

Also Monday night, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms,” according to the Agence France Presse. He added that he was saddened by the deaths.

Aryeh Bensemoun, the head of Toulouse’s Jewish community, said the community was “still in shock,” Monday night.

“We are having a very hard time coming to terms with what happened,” he told The Times of Israel by phone. “It’s a tragedy, it’s a catastrophe. It’s still hard to imagine that someone just came to the school and shot and killed children,” he said. “But we need to recognize and internalize that this really did happen, otherwise it’s going to become a nightmare that will never end.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led international condemnation of the attack. The Palestinian Authority also condemned it as an act of terrorism, and its President Mahmoud Abbas sent a message of condolence to the victims via Sarkozy.

Otzer Hatorah is located in the Jolimont part of the city, in the northeastern section of Toulouse. Ozar Hatorah has a junior high, a high school and a kollel, or yeshiva for married men.

The school was cordoned off Monday by police, who then escorted other children out. One officer held a distraught girl, her face in her hands. A mother and son wearing a yarmulke walked away from the site, their faces visibly pained. A video camera was visible at the school’s entrance.

“We’re very sad, but no one is panicking,” said Yves Bounan, the president of Gan Rachi, the primary school the victims attended, a few hours after the shooting. “The parents are slowly picking up their children. We don’t know yet how to react to this.”

“The drama occurred a bit before 8 a.m. A man arrived in front of the school on a motorcycle or scooter,” prosecutor Michel Valet said, adding that the man got off his scooter outside the school and opened fire.

“He shot at everything he had in front of him, children and adults,” he said. “The children were chased inside the school.”

Marc Sztulman, a leader of the Jewish community in Toulouse, confirmed that some students were severely wounded and are still in critical condition.

“We are left in disillusion and despair,” he told The Times of Israel in a phone interview from Toulouse. “We are still in utter shock and disbelief. We don’t know what happened exactly.” He said he had “absolutely no idea” who could be behind the shooting.

Sarkozy and Interior Minister Claude Guéant visited the French city shortly after noon.

“It’s a tragedy. And it’s a tragedy that there are insane people who are capable of doing such a thing,” Sarkozy told French TV. “I can’t accept this idea that one can massacre Jewish children in front of their school.”

Sarkozy visited the school accompanied by Richard Prasquier, the president of CRIF, the umbrella group representing Jewish organizations.

“It’s a day of national tragedy,” Sarkozy said after arriving. “The barbarianism, the savagery, the cruelty cannot win. Hate cannot win. The nation is much stronger.”

The chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, told French news channel BFN he was horrified and upset by the shooting. He said he planned to visit the site immediately.

World ORT representative in France Guy Seniak said: “This shows that Jewish institutions have to be very cautious and I expect that we will now see a period where security is prioritized. The important thing is to be aware and not to panic. It’s an old problem: not to make ourselves live in a ghetto while, at the same time, to ensure we have the best security.”

In Jerusalem, Netanyahu condemned the killings and branded them an apparent consequence of “murderous anti-Semitism.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said “whether it was a terror attack or a hate crime, the loss of life is unacceptable.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it was horrified by the shooting. (© 2012 THE TIMES OF ISRAEL 03/19/12)


Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY