Visiting school teacher Rabbi Yonatan Sandler and his sons Aryeh and Gavriel – all of the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood in Jerusalem – were identified as 3 of the victims of Monday’s shooting attack on the Ozar HaTorah Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday. Another victim, 8 year-old Miriam Monsonego, was the daughter of school principal Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego.
Police continue to search for a shooter who mowed down a group of teachers and students at a student dropoff point outside the Ozar HaTorah Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday.
Reports currently list the deceased at 4, shot at approximately 8:10am by an unidentified attacker. Three children, ages 6-8, are fighting for their lives. The French television network BFM said the dead included a school teacher, his two children, and a 17-year-old male student. The daughter of the school’s principal, who had been critically injured, has also succumbed to her wounds.
A man opened fire on people waiting at a school drop-off point and then fled, according to observers at the scene. A local French journalist told CNN that the attacker got close enough to shoot his victims in the head.Video surveillance cameras in the southwestern French city show a man in a helmet traveling on a black scooter, appearing to know the city well. Some reports indicate the shooter may have had tattoos on his face.
The city of Toulouse is on “lockdown” according to France 24 news, with a team of 50-60 police officers and counter-terror specialists scouring the city for the shooter. French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Interior Minister Claude Guéant, and Education Minister Luc Chatel are expected to arrive in Toulouse shortly to monitor the situation. Jewish institutions throughout the country are being afforded additional security by law enforcement.
Chief Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim, issued a statment, saying: ‘I am horrified by what happened outside a Jewish school in Toulouse today. It has bruised my body and my soul. I am deeply upset and am heading to Toulouse.’
This incident comes days after three soldiers were shot dead by a man on a scooter in the same region of France.
A 30-year-old paratrooper was shot dead in a residential area of Toulouse just over a week ago, while two soldiers were killed and a third wounded as they used a cashpoint in the town of Montauban, some 29 miles away, on Thursday.
All the soldiers appear to have been ethnic minorities.
A correspondent at the scene for BFM said that the Police see a connection between the three incidents, citing the same weapon – 9mm gun – and black scooter used in all three attacks. President Sarkozy said it is too early to connect the three events.
People in the area are in “immense shock,” the correspondent said.
There are currently at least 20 Ozar HaTorah schools throughout France, educating children of primarily Sephardic, Middle Eastern and North African descent.
The Ozar HaTorah organization was established in 1945 in Jerusalem. It opened 29 schools in the British Mandate of Palestine, educating children until the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.
It subsequently opened schools in the Middle East and North Africa, including Iran, Syria, Libya. and Morocco. Ozar HaTorah also opened schools in France, due to a large influx of immigrants from North Africa in the late 1960s and early 1970s.