Victims of supermarket attack remembered at Paris synagogue

Updated Jan. 11 at 8:45 p.m. PDT

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Hundreds gathered with the leaders of France and Israel to remember the victims of an attack at a kosher supermarket near Paris.

French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined several hundred members of the Jewish community at the memorial Sunday night at the Grand Synagogue of Paris, also known as the Synagogue de la Victoire. Hollande did not deliver remarks at the synagogue.

The sister of attack victim Yoav Hattab, one of four Jews killed in an attack Friday at the Hyper Cacher market, urged those gathered at the memorial to light four extra candles each Shabbat “so they may remain etched in our hearts.” The sister, who asked not to be named, also played a recording of Hattab singing the Modeh Ani prayer.

Netanyahu called on Europe and the rest of the world to support Israel’s fight against terror as supporters chanted his “Bibi” and “Israel will live, Israel will overcome.”

“Like the civilized world stands united with France, so it needs to stand with Israel in its fight against the same enemy exactly: radical Islam,” Netanyahu said.

“It’s a short distance between the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, to the murder of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, to the attacks on Jews in Israel, to the murders at Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher,” he added.

The gathering Sunday evening was organized by the Consistoire, the body responsible for religious services for the French Jewish community. It was held immediately after a march in which hundreds of thousands walked through the heart of Paris in support of democratic values.

The march was originally scheduled as an act of public protest following the slaying of 12 people on Jan. 7 by Islamist terrorists at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a weekly which published many items lampooning Islam.
But organizers later expanded it to commemorate the victims of attacks at the supermarket and a police officer slain in Paris on Thursday.

Netanyahu commended the “remarkable bravery of French law enforcement” during the terrorist attacks and praised the actions of a Muslim employee of the kosher supermarket who helped several Jews escape into the refrigeration room without the shooter’s knowledge. He also reiterated his call to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

“We need to acknowledge that we are facing a global network of radical Islam of hate. I believe this threat will grow when Europe sees the return of thousands of terrorists from the killing fields of the Middle East, the danger will be graver and it will become a grave threat to humanity if radical Islam gets nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “So we need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. We need to support each other in this fateful struggle against radical Islamic fanatics wherever they are.”

Cherif and Said Kouachi, brothers in their 30s, perpetrated the attack at Charlie Hebdo. They were killed Friday when police overtook the printing shop where they were holed up north of Paris. That same day, Amedy Coulibaly, an associate with whom the brothers had been recruited as jihadists to fight in Syria, took more than 20 people hostage at Hyper Cacher and killed four.

Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the shop.
According to some reports, Coulibaly had maps of Jewish schools in his car on Jan. 8, a day before the attack on Hyper Cacher, when he killed a police officer south of the city center.

French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said the march Sunday shows the French Jewish community “is not as isolated as we thought. For months we have been asking where is France? Today we saw France, and the France we saw was a spitting image of biblical descriptions of Jerusalem, where brothers unite.”

The synagogue rally also featured the singing of Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, followed by the French national anthem, La Marseillaise. –– jta

Updated Jan. 10 at 10:12 p.m. PDT

paris | Just before Shabbat, Avishai Hattab told a Jewish radio station that he hoped to see his brother alive.

But by Saturday morning, it was clear that Yoav Hattab, a 21-year-old Tunisia native living in the Paris suburb of Vincennes, had died at the hands of a radical Islamist, during a hostage situation Friday at a kosher supermarket at the eastern edge of Paris.

Hattab, the son of a Tunisian rabbi who was living in the Paris suburb of Vincennes, was one of four Jewish victims in the attack, who were identified Saturday.

The other victims were Yohan Cohen, 22; Philippe Braham, 45 and François-Michel Saada, who was 55. The French Jewish umbrella group CRIF, confirmed the names of the victims, and the news site reported their ages. <Click here to see photos of the victims>

Reacting to the bitter news, David Hattab, Yoav’s cousin, wrote on Facebook: “You were my brother, even though we did not have the same mother. We grew up together. I miss you terribly and I can’t believe it. I love you, my brother, your name is etched in my heart, I will never ever forget you.”

Like Hattab, Yohan Cohen was also a student and had begun working at Hyper Cacher about a year ago, according to the French magazine L’Express. He was living in Sarcelles, another suburb with a large Jewish community, with his mother, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

Philippe Braham was a teacher and father of three. His neighbors in the town of L’Hay-les-Roses, near Paris, described him to media as a quiet and polite man.

Accounts from some of the freed hostages – in total more than 20 people were held in the supermarket by the gunman Amedy Coulibaly, 32 – revealed that at least six people were led to relative safety by an employee of the supermarket named Lassana Bathily, who according to BFMTV is not Jewish.

The television channel reported he led six hostages secretly into the supermarket’s refrigeration room, where they hid without the hostage taker’s knowledge, before escaping the building. — jta

Updated Jan. 11 at 12:15 p.m. PDT

Dozens of world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas linked arms to lead a mass rally in Paris Sunday to honor victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in the French capital. An estimated 3.7 million people took part in the demonstration, which French officials called the largest in the nation’s history.

Afterward, Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande addressed hundreds in the city’s Grand Synagogue, which had been closed over Shabbat for security reasons. Israeli minister Naftali Bennett and Knesset member Eli Yisha were also in attendance, as was Imam Hassan Chalghoumi, the Muslim cleric of the Paris suburb of Drancy. When Chalghoumi entered, according to Haaretz, the crowd rose to its feet in apparent acknowledgement of the prayer the imam led outside the Hyper Cacher, the kosher supermarket where an Islamist terrorist killed four Jewish hostages during a siege Friday.

Netanyahu is  working to arrange burial in Israel for the four victims of that supermarket attack, at the request of their families, according to the Jerusalem Post. The four funerals are expected to take place in Israel on Tuesday.


Updated Jan. 10 at 10 a.m. PDT

French Jews held a vigil Saturday evening for the victims of Friday’s hostage siege at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

The umbrella group for French Jewish communities named the murdered Jews as Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada, according to the Jerusalem Post.

“These French citizens were struck down in a cold-blooded manner and mercilessly because they were Jews,” read the CRIF statement sent out on Saturday.

CRIF head Roger Cukierman urged French Jews to stay instead of joining a wave of emigration to Israel, telling the Associated Press that “it’s very important that there will remain a Jewish community in France.” France houses Europe’s largest Jewish community with an estimated population of 600,000.

The Grand Synagogue of Paris was closed during Friday’s terror attacks and did not reopen for Shabbat services, marking the first time the synagogue has not held services since World War II, according to the JTA. French police also closed the Rue des Rosiers shopping street in the historically Jewish neighborhood of the Marais.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has released a statement claiming responsibility for the attacks. The statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Intercept, declared, “The leadership of #AQAP directed the operation, and they have chosen their target carefully as a revenge for the honor of Prophet.” The statement added that “The target was in France in particular because of its obvious role in the war on Islam and oppressed nations.” It also threatened further attacks against the West.

According to testimonies of people who survived the attack on the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket, the four murdered Jews were shot in the early stages of the seven-hour standoff, which ended when police stormed the shop and killed the hostage taker, a 32-year-old man identified as Amedy Coulibaly.

French police continue to search for Hayet Boumeddiene, 26, Coulibaly’s girlfriend and alleged accomplice. A police union spokesman told CNN that she may have fled and escaped during the confusion when police stormed the supermarket, killing Coulibaly and freeing the hostages.

Updated Jan. 9 at 1:25 p.m. PDT

Police on Friday stormed the two buildings seized by Islamist terrorists near Paris, with all three terrorists killed in the separate operations. Four of the hostages who were held at the kosher supermarket by Amedy Coulibaly were killed, leading French President Francois Hollande to denounce what he called “an appalling anti-Semitic act.”

Six explosions were heard at the site of the kosher supermarket in the eastern Paris neighborhood of Porte de Vincennes as Special Forces moved in to end the siege.

On Thursday, Coulibaly murdered a police officer in Montrouge, south of Paris. His female companion, Hayat Boumeddiene, is said to still be at large.

As events unfolded Friday, it became clear that Coulibaly was actively collaborating with the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who carried out Wednesday’s massacre at the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. According to French media reports, Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi were two of the most committed followers of convicted terrorist Djamel Beghal. Telephone conversations reveal that the pair visited Beghal’s home in Murat in the south of France.

Hollande described the events as “a tragedy for the nation”.

In a national address, he thanked the security forces for their “courage, bravery and efficiency,” but added that France still faced threats.

“We have to be vigilant. I also ask you to be united – it’s our best weapon,” he said.

“We must be implacable towards racism,” he added, saying that the supermarket attack was an “appalling anti-Semitic act.”

From earlier reports:

Several hostages were killed as simultaneous police raids on Friday ended the two hostage crises in Paris, one of which was at a kosher supermarket.

The raids also left all of the captors dead, including the two brothers suspected with perpetrating Wednesday’s attack at Charlie Hebdo.

The hostage situation at Hyper Cacher, a kosher supermarket near Porte de Vincennes in Paris’ 12th arrondissement, began at 1 p.m. local time Friday, when the store is usually full of Jewish shoppers preparing for Shabbat, according to Chlomik Zenouda, vice president of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism.

Amedy Coulibaly, 32, the suspect in the shooting death of a Paris police officer on Thursday in Montrouge, was identified as the captor. Witnesses said shots were fired from an automatic assault rifle and the shooter then retreated into the supermarket. Two hostages reportedly were killed at that time.

Georges Wolinski, killed in the attack photo/wikimedia

French police then set up a security perimeter around the supermarket, where eight to 12 people, including at least one child, were being held hostage. After several hours, police stormed the building, and news agencies reported that at least four people were killed.

At the same time, French police stormed a printing shop north of Paris where Cherif and Said Kouachi – the brothers whom French police named as the shooters in the Charlie Hebdo attack – had holed up with a hostage. The brothers were killed and the hostage was freed.

On Wednesday, twelve people were killed in the attack at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper that frequently published items considered offensive to Islam – and offensive to other religions, politicians and people.

Police sources in France said the hostage takers at the kosher supermarket were in contact with the brothers, according to the Dutch daily Het Parool. Police received threats that the hostages in the kosher shop would be killed if the brothers were harmed, Reuters reported.

Relatives of some of the people being held hostage at the kosher shop arrived at the scene during the standoff but were prevented from approaching, Alain Azria, a French Jewish journalist who was at the scene, told JTA. Among the hostages were one woman and her daughter, he said. The girl’s father was forced to wait behind the police line for over an hour, he said.

Police locked down schools in the vicinity, and a nearby Jewish school was evacuated, according to Tablet. Authorities in the 4th Arrondissement said that police had ordered shops to close on the rue de Rosiers, a Jewish area where shoppers tend to proliferate in the hours before Shabbat.

The terrorists involved in the various attacks were followers of Djamel Beghal, a charismatic Islamist, Le Monde reported.

Among the deadin the Jan. 7 attack at Charlie Hebdo was the Jewish caricaturist Georges Wolinski, 81, a French Jew who was born in Tunisia and moved to France at 13. In addition to his tenure at Charlie Hebdo, he had worked at leading publications such as L’Humanité, Le Nouvel Observateur and Paris Match.

World leaders condemned the attack as an assault on freedom of expression, and governments throughout Europe expressed fear that fighters returning from Iraq or Syria could launch attacks in their home countries. French President Fran-cois Hollande, speaking near the scene of the shooting, said “France is today in shock.”

Police at the scene of the deadly attack in Paris on Jan. 7 photo/jta-youtube

The magazine “was threatened several times in the past, and we need to show we are a united country,” he said. The French president also vowed that authorities would “punish the attackers. We will look for the people responsible.”

According to the French daily Le Monde, the attack on Charlie Hebdo is the deadliest to have taken place in France since 1961.

Footage from the scene posted on the French news website immediately after the attack showed two heavily armed men exiting a black car and shooting a rifle at a police officer near the building. One of the masked assailants then approached the officer and shot him in the head.

Clad in black with hoods and carrying machine guns, the attackers forced one of the cartoonists arriving at the office building with her young daughter to open the door with a security code.

The staff was in an editorial meeting and the gunmen headed straight for the paper’s editor, Stéphane Charbonnier — widely known by his pen name Charb — killing him and his police bodyguard first, a police union spokesman said.

“This is the darkest day of the history of the French press,” said Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Without Borders.

Charlie Hebdo, which regularly runs articles and caricatures critical of religion, has published a series of satirical cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The assailants had cried out “Allah is the greatest” in Arabic and shouted that their attack was to “avenge the prophet,” Le Monde reported.

Both al-Qaida and the Islamic State repeatedly have threatened to attack France, not just Charlie Hebdo.

In the winter 2014 edition of the al-Qaida magazine Inspire, a so-called chief describing where to use a new bomb said: “Of course the first priority and the main focus should be on America, then the United Kingdom, then France and so on.”

In 2013, the same magazine specifically threatened Charb and included an article titled “France the Imbecile Invader.”

An al-Qaida tweeter who communicated with the Associated Press after the attack said the group is not claiming responsibility, but also called the attack “inspiring.”

On social media, supporters of militant Islamic groups praised the crime. One self-described Tunisian loyalist of al-Qaida and the Islamic State tweeted that the attack was well-deserved revenge against France.

Elsewhere on the Internet, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (“I Am Charlie”) was trending as people expressed support for journalistic freedom. — j. wire services