Victims of French shooting to be buried in Israel

March 19, 2012 - 3:16 PM
APTOPIX France School Shootings

Police officers gather at the site of a shooting in Toulouse, southwestern France, Monday, March 19, 2012. A father and his two sons were among four people who died Monday when a gunman opened fire in front of a Jewish school in a city in southwest France, the Toulouse prosecutor said Monday. (AP Photo/Bruno Martin)

JERUSALEM (AP) — The victims of a shooting attack at a Jewish school in France will be brought to Israel for burial, the Foreign Ministry said Monday. Israelis condemned the shooting that killed four Jews — a rabbi and three children.

Israel is honoring a request by the families of those killed, and the bodies will be flown to Israel as quickly as possible, said ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

In Monday's attack in the southern city of Toulouse, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire with two handguns at the Ozar Hatorah school, killing a rabbi, his two sons and the daughter of the school's principal.

Palmor identified the victims as Jonathan Sandler, 30, sons Gabriel and Arieh, ages four and five, and 7-year-old Miriam Monsonego, the principal's daughter.

The attacks shocked Israelis. Video of the aftermath dominated newscasts. Israel's prime minister and other officials expressed outrage at the bloodshed.

Sandler and his family moved from Israel to France last year.

"He was a very happy, friendly and well loved guy," said Aaron Getz, who studied with Sandler in Jerusalem. "He gave everything of himself to the Jewish community."

"This is hatred of Jews. Why else would anyone shoot at a Jewish school," said Sandler's cousin, Caroline Laustria, in Israel.

The identity of the gunman is not known, and police are investigating.

News that the gun used Monday was the same used in attacks last week around Toulouse fueled suspicions that a killer is targeting French minorities, and not only Jews. The dead and injured in the earlier attacks were paratroopers of North African and Caribbean origin.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the school attack at a meeting of his Likud Party on Monday.

"It's too early to say what the precise background for this act of murder is, but I think that we can't rule out that there was a strong, murderous anti-Semitic motive here," Netanyahu said.

"I'm sure that Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, and his government will do their utmost to find the killer, and we in Israel will do everything to help them in this task," Netanyahu said.

President Sarkozy called the attack the worst school shooting in French history.

In 1982, Palestinians burst into the popular Jo Goldenberg Jewish restaurant in Paris, spraying machine-gun fire that killed six people, including two Americans, and injured 21.

In 2006, Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old French Jew, was kidnapped, tortured and killed.

France is sensitive toward its Jewish community because of its World War II history, when French authorities aided Nazi occupiers in deporting Jewish citizens to death camps.

French prosecutors were studying possible terrorist links, but the motive for all three attacks was unclear.

Danny Yatom, a former chief of Israel's Mossad spy agency, said that if it turns out to have been a terror attack rather than a hate crime, he believes Iran or its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah are likely suspects. Yatom said assailants prefer Jewish civilian targets because they are easier to hit than Israeli ones.