French Jewish school community traumatised by shooting

Terrified and bewildered parents and children from the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse expressed shock and anger on Monday at a bloody anti-Semitic attack that has rocked France.

"We came to the school this morning for prayers. Five minutes later we heard shots, and we were very afraid. We were gathered in a room and prayed together while we waited for our parents," said six-year-old Alexia.

As she spoke, children from the Jewish primary and nearby secondary school were being led out of the halls where they had sought shelter from the shooting that left four dead, and were running into the arms of their parents.

Anti-terrorist judges have taken charge of the investigation, but initial evidence pointed to the school shooting being the work of a lone gunman on a scooter already being hunted for the murder of three paratroopers.

Monday's target -- a private Jewish religious school with 200 people in a quiet corner of Toulouse -- changed the nature of the inquiry.

"It's an abominable, obscurantist, anti-Semitic attack of the worst kind. They are shooting children," declared father Charles Bensemoun, waiting anxiously for his young son to be released from the security cordon.

"How else can you explain that? We're dealing with the most brutal, most disgusting anti-Semitism," he said.

Eyes red with tears, other parents were gathered not far from the school, discussing the similarities between the gunman's attack on the children at the school and last week's shootings of the French soldiers.

Karine Tordjman has a son and a niece at the school. The 44-year-old said she was "very, very shocked" but that for her, at least, the news was good: "Mine are fine, but the victims could as well be my kids.

"Everyone here knows each other," she sobbed. "How can you expect me to explain what happened. There is no explanation. Obviously it's the same method as that bastard who shot the solders, but that doesn't mean anything.

"We can't be sure it was anti-Semitic... " she said uncertainly, but was quickly shouted down by another woman, who declared: "We are being targeted!"

Patrick Roumi, a leader of the parents' association, went further, seeing the attack as a result of what he sees as the stigmatisation of Israel.

"We must admit that the left-leaning media is complicit," he declared. "We have become a target of politicians. When 250 rockets are launched on Israel, we only hear about the Palestinian victims, not those bombarded daily."

The three paratroopers shot dead last week in two attacks were French Arabs, and the wounded soldier was a black French West Indian, but Roumi doubted that the attacks could be the work of a simple racist.

"Can we really imagine that this was the extreme right?" he demanded. "I don't think we've quite arrived at that point in France."

Source: AFP

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