Last updated: 21 March, 2012

Bodies of French shooting victims land in Israel

The bodies of three children and a rabbi who were shot dead at a Jewish school in France arrived in Israel early on Wednesday ahead of a burial service in Jerusalem, an airport source said.

The bodies of 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 4, and seven-year-old Miriam Monsonego arrived at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv shortly after 5:45 am (0345 GMT) on an El Al flight from Paris, he said.

The plane, which was also carrying French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and some 50 relatives and friends of the victims, touched down shortly after dawn, just two days after the four were shot dead in a cold-blooded attack at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

Shortly afterwards, four ambulances carrying the bodies of the French rabbi, and the three children, all of whom held dual French-Israeli citizenship, were seen leaving the airport for Jerusalem, an AFP correspondent said.

The funerals were scheduled to take place at 10:00 am (0800 GMT) in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery, officials said.

France has launched a massive manhunt for the gunman behind Monday’s shooting attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in southwest France, with the killer believed to be responsible for two other deadly shootings which left three soldiers dead in the same area.

As the plane touched down, elite French police mounted a pre-dawn raid on a property in Toulouse where a 24-year-old man claiming to be linked to Al-Qaeda was holed up inside a building, sources close to the investigation told AFP.

French investigators believe the gunman who was responsible for the school attack also killed three soldiers in two separate shootings in the area last week.

In Monday’s attack, the shooter opened fire on a group of parents and children outside the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, killing Sandler and his two sons in the street.

The gunman then ran into the school grounds and shot dead the seven-year-old daughter of the school director. Another student, a 17-year-old boy, was critically injured in the attack.

The victims were shot at point blank range and the killer escaped on a motorbike.

The bloody assault sparked horrified denunciations from across France and around the world, particularly in Israel, and prompted police to impose an unprecedented terror alert in the southwest as they sought the killer.

French investigators believe the gunman who was responsible for the school attack also killed three soldiers in two other attacks last week.

The soldiers were French citizens of North African origin, while another who was critically wounded in the attack was black and from the French West Indies.