Last updated: 13 January, 2015

Jews slain in Paris attacks arrive in Israel for burial

The bodies of four French Jews killed in an Islamist attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris arrived in Israel early Tuesday ahead of a funeral in Jerusalem, an airport official said.

Crowds of mourners are set to attend the funeral in Jerusalem Tuesday of four Jews killed in an Islamist attack on a Paris kosher supermarket, after their bodies were flown to Israel.

Top Israeli leaders are expected to join the ceremony, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has urged France’s Jews to relocate to their “home” Israel following the assault.

The four Jews were among 17 people gunned down in Paris during three days of bloodshed that convulsed France and sent shock waves through its Jewish community, the third-largest in the world.

The attack has also shaken Israel’s French-speaking community, with officials saying it would likely trigger a fresh surge in immigration.

For many in Israel, the killings were further evidence that France is becoming hostile territory for Jews and that authorities are unable to protect them.

Yoav Hattab, 22, Philippe Braham, 45, Yohan Cohen, 23, and Francois-Michel Saada, 64, were at the kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday shortly before the start of the Jewish sabbath when it was attacked by Islamist gunman Amedy Coulibaly.

All four were shot dead and another 15 people taken hostage by Coulibaly before police stormed the building and killed him.

Coulibaly had links to the two Islamic extremists behind the massacre of 12 people at the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo two days earlier.

Netanyahu said Sunday that he had agreed to a request from the families that the four victims be buried in Jerusalem.

They will be laid to rest in a joint funeral at the sprawling Givat Shaul cemetery on the city’s western outskirts at 1000 GMT.

Prior to the funeral, the body of Hattab, a Tunisian citizen, was taken to a seminary near Tel Aviv where he was eulogised by Rabbi Meir Mazuz, who is considered the spiritual leader of Tunisian Jewry, at the request of the family.

Other dignitaries expected to attend the funeral include President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, along with members of Israel’s French-speaking community.

Members of the general public are expected to turn up in large numbers, with police saying free buses would be provided from a car park about two kilometres (1.25 miles) away while access to the site would be closed to private traffic.

The four bodies were released from the forensic institute in Paris on Monday and arrived at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv early Tuesday on an El Al flight that was also carrying their families.

For many, the supermarket attack brought back memories of another deadly shooting in the southern French city of Toulouse in March 2012 when Islamist gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead three young children and a teacher at a Jewish school.

All four were flown to Israel where they were buried in the same Jerusalem cemetery where the victims from the Paris shooting will also be laid to rest.

– ‘Israel is your home’ –

The fresh violence has shaken the Jewish community in France, which numbers 500,000 to 600,000 people.

It is the latest in a series of events that have created a growing sense of insecurity, beginning with the 2006 death of a 23-year-old Jewish man after he was kidnapped and tortured in a housing estate south of Paris.

The Toulouse shooting set off a wave of French immigration to Israel, with numbers hitting a record high last year of 6,600 people, and many believe the trend will accelerate after the Paris slayings.

Netanyahu was quick to reach out to French Jews, in remarks that were not well received in Paris.

“To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place towards which you pray, the state of Israel is your home,” he said.

Many in Israel are hoping the bloodshed will hammer home to Europeans the threat posed by Islamist militants, which Israelis say they have been facing for years.

France has sought to reassure its Jewish community, pledging to deploy nearly 5,000 police and security forces to protect the 700 Jewish schools across the country and to boost security at other Jewish institutions.

“France without its Jews is not France,” said Prime Minister Manuel Valls, standing outside the scene of Friday’s attack.

“The Jews of France, for several years, have been frightened,” he acknowledged.

“Today, we are all Charlie, all police officers, all the Jews of France,” he said, using the slogan of solidarity with all those killed in last week’s attacks.