France’s president asked the nation’s children Tuesday to honor those killed in Monday’s Jewish school shooting in Toulouse, and warned that it could have happened anywhere.
Visiting a junior high school in Paris, Nicolas Sarkozy said the children killed “are exactly like you.” He said the attack “could have happened here.”
Schools across France held a minute of silence Tuesday to honor the three children and a rabbi killed in Monday’s attack in the southern city of Toulouse.
The killer, also suspected in the deaths of three paratroopers last week, is still at large.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sarkozy wrote that since some of the victims held dual Israeli-French citizenship, he wanted to express his sincere condolences to Netanyahu and the Israeli public.
“You can be sure that French authorities will do everything to arrest the perpetrator of this heinous crime and bring the full weight of justice to bear, as appropriate to a crime of this gravity and cruelty.”
The four victims will be buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the Foreign Ministry said. Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, Gabriel Sandler (age 4), Arieh Sandler (age 5), and Miriam Monsonego (age 7) were killed in the morning assault.
The funeral will be attended by French Foreign Minister Allan Juppe.
The bodies were being flown to Paris from Toulouse on Tuesday by the French air force, and then to Israel via El Al.
“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 Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday. “The government of Israel has therefore decided to transfer the coffins to Israel as soon as possible… in coordination with the French authorities.”
The costs of the funeral are to be covered by Israel’s National Insurance Institute; due to the “extraordinary circumstances,” it was decided, funds normally used to bury terror victims in Israel could be used in this case.
The Jerusalem Burial Society, which oversees Jewish burials in the capital, had sought a deposit from the families before registering the graves — prompting a wave of criticism for the insensitivity to the victims’ families. People seeking burial in Jerusalem who are not residents of the capital are routinely required to pay, burial society officials explained, acknowledging that relatives in France had initially been asked to provide a check as a deposit for the burials.
Sarkozy vowed Monday night to use all the resources at France’s disposal to apprehend the perpetrators of the attack, but the gunman was still at large. A massive manhunt is under way to find the perpetrator, whom police now believe has ties to neo-Nazi groups. Police have tied the Toulouse shooting to two attacks last week that left three French soldiers of North African descent dead.
According to police sources, in all three cases the same scooter, gun and methodology were used to carry out the hitman-style murders. According to a brief AP report on Tuesday, the killer in Toulouse may have filmed the event with a video camera around his own neck.
On Tuesday Sarkozy, for the first time in French history, authorized a “scarlet alert,” the highest level of national alert. This grants the government wide ranging powers to disrupt normal life, including closing public transportation and schools and involving the military in operations.
French schools observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims at 11 a.m. Sarkozy and some other candidates suspended election campaigning for the day Tuesday.
Reports indicated that French investigators think the gunman may be linked to, or even be one of, a trio of French paratroopers who were discharged for links to neo-Nazis, having been pictured posing with a swastika in 2008. The French daily Le Point said their profiles matched the initial information about Monday’s killer.
Also on Monday, the AFP reported that French police have launched an inquiry after two synagogues in Paris received a threatening letter, a source close to the probe said.
The Associated Press and JTA contributed to this report.
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