Jerusalem, Mar. 21 – The slayings in France of Jewish school children is a wakeup call to the world that action has to be taken against radical terrorism, Israel’s Deputy-Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said today.
The four victims of a vicious attack on a Jewish school in France were laid to rest in Israel Wednesday in a funeral attended by thousands of people and political leaders.
Ayalon said the school attack was “not just against Israel or against Judaism, but against anything that is not extremist Islam. In France they too understand today that we are all in the same boat.”
Ayalon said the same line connects the extremist violence of Hamas in Gaza to the attacks in France. “I think at least in France and I hope in all of Europe they have a much bigger and deeper understanding today of the reality in which we live in Israel and the necessity of self-defense responses, including preventive, that are simply necessary for the peace and security of the world,” Ayalon said in an Israel Radio interview.
Mourners wept as the dead were eulogized by Israeli leaders and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. Jonathan Sandler, 30, his sons Gabriel, 3, and Arieh , 6, and 8-year-old Miriam Monsonego were shot dead Monday when a gunman methodically opened fire at the Otsar Hatorah Jewish school in the southern French city of Toulouse.
At the head of the crowd pallbearers stood by the stretchers bearing the bodies, those of the children poignantly small as they lay covered by traditional funeral shrouds.
“I came to express the solidarity of the French people with the people of Israel, which felt that its children were murdered. The blood of our two peoples was spilled in this murder," Juppe told Israeli President Shimon Peres earlier.
As the funerals were taking place in Jerusalem, French anti-terrorism police were surrounding a house in Toulouse where the 24-year-old suspected killer was refusing to surrender after shooting two officers early Wednesday. The gunman was identified as Mohammed Merah, a 24-year-old French national of Algerian background.
"He claims to be a mujahideen and to belong to al-Qaida," French Interior Minister Claude Gueant said. "He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions."
Before the police raid in Toulouse, a caller to the France 24 television studio claimed responsibility for the shootings at the school and of four French soldiers last week. He said the shootings were carried out in connection with al Qaeda and that they marked the beginning of a larger campaign. Hours later, a parcel bomb exploded outside of Indonesian embassy in Paris.
A funeral service was held later Wednesday in France for the three French soldiers shot and killed last week apparently by the same gunman. A fourth soldier remains in critical condition, as does a teenage student shot at the school on Monday.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy presided over a somber military ceremony attended by 3000 people in Toulouse before the flag-draped coffins of Abel Chennouf, 25, Mohamed Legouade, 23, and Imad Ibn Ziaten, 30.
“These soldiers were our soldiers. These children were our children. This man wanted to bring the Republic to its knees. The Republic has not wavered,” Sarkozy said.