Four Killed in Shooting at Jewish School in France

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Yair Ettinger
Eli Shvidler
Olivier Fitoussi

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France opens terrorism probe into shootings
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Adults comfort a boy as they walk away from the 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school, on March 19, 2012 in Toulouse.Credit: AFP

Four people were killed and another seriously wounded in a shooting at a Jewish high school in the southern French city of Toulouse, French media reported on Monday.

The shooting took place near a synagogue on the campus of the Ozar Hatorah school, where children and their parents usually wait for a bus that takes them to the various Jewish preschools in the community. The victim, Jonathan Sandler, a Jewish studies teacher at the school, was waiting for the bus with his two children when the shooting occurred.

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Policemen at work in front of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, southwestern France, on March 19, 2012. Credit: AFP
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Nicolas Sarkozy, France's President delivers a speech in front of the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, southwestern France, March 19, 2012.Credit: Reuters
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A man comforts schoolchildren after a gunman opened fire at a Jewish school killing several people in Toulouse, France, March 19, 2012. Credit: AP

According to reports, a man riding a motorcycle opened fire at the children and the parents at around 8:00 A.M.The gunman then abandoned the motorcycle, entered the school and began shooting at the students and faculty.

French prosecutor Michel Valet said Monday 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.

Baruch, Sandler's learning companion at the Judaic studies program at the Ozar Hatorah school, told Haaretz that he spoke to Sandler moments before the shooting.

"I saw him, greeted him, and left toward the school. Seconds later, I hear shots. I didn't turn around and started running toward the synagogue that is about 10-15 meters from the entrance gate," he said.

"Everyone started shouting 'shooting, shooting!' and fled. At some point, the shooter entered the school and began firing inside. We hid under the synagogue in a shed, until the police came and escorted us out."

French police said that the man opened fire with an automatic pistol of the same kind that was seen at two previous attacks on soldiers in Toulouse and the nearby town of Montauban, the report said. Three soldiers died in those two incidents, and one was seriously wounded.

Police closed off the street on which the school is located, and deployed large forces the scene. Some 50 French police officers were drafted into the investigation including anti-terrorist officers, French media reported.

The Ministry of Interior has requested increased vigilance and surveillance in all of south-west France, particularly in the Jewish districts.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy cancelled other appointments and was on his way to Toulouse on Monday morning, accompanied by Education Minister Luc Chatel and the president of the CRIF French Jewish association, Richard Prasquier.

Jean-Yves Camus, a Research Associate with the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in France, told Haaretz, "The lone-wolf scenario seems the more likely, both in the case of the Toulouse shooting-spree and in the cold-blooded murder of French servicemen who belonged to an elite unit having fought in Afghanistan."

"One interesting point in those murders is that all soldiers belonged to an ethnic minority, three were from north Africa and one was from the West Indies. Until now, experts have agreed that the French neo-Nazi scene, while it is much appreciative of Breivik's killing in Norway and often refers to the "lone-wolf" or leaderless resistance modes of action, do not have the capability of committing such actions."

Ozar Hatorah is a religious school that, according to its website, aims to provide its students with a balanced education that willl enable them to integrate fully into civil society, to "form the French citizens of tomorrow, in harmony with their Judaism."

According to a member of the community, the Jews in Toulouse see the Ozar Hatorah school as the center of their community. Toulouse is home to a community of 25,000 Jews.

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