Jews killed in Paris attacks flown to 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.
The four were among 17 people gunned down in Paris during three days of bloodshed that shook France to the core and sent shock waves through its Jewish community, the third largest in the world.
Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada 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, killing 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.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he had agreed to a request from the families that the 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.
Among those taking part in the ceremony will be Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, along with other Israeli ministers and officials.
Members of Israel's French-speaking community were also due to attend.
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 flown to Israel, where they arrived at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv on an El Al flight shortly after 4:30 am (0230 GMT), Israel Airports Authority spokesman Ofer Lefler wrote in a text message.
El Al, Israel's national carrier, said the victims' families were also on the flight.
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 latest shooting will also be laid to rest.
- Fear factor -
The latest deadly violence has only served to further rattle the Jewish community in France, which numbers 500,000 to 600,000 people.
It comes in the wake of a string of events that have created a growing sense of insecurity that began with the 2006 death of a 23-year-old Jewish man after he was kidnapped and tortured in a housing estate south of Paris.
But it was the Toulouse shooting that set off a wave of French immigration to Israel that has not stopped, with numbers hitting a record high last year of 6,600 people.
And many believe the Paris slayings will only accelerate the trend.
Israel was quick to capitalise on the moment, with Netanyahu reaching out to French Jews to relocate to Israel, telling them it was their "home".
"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 in remarks that were not well received in Paris.
Anxious to calm fears, Paris has pulled out all the stops to reassure the 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.
© 2015 AFP