Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (4th R) and French ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot (2nd R)
Flanked by security guards, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (4th R) and French ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot (2nd R) leave after offering their condolences to the Sandler family in Jerusalem. Israel was set up as a haven for Jews whose lives were threatened, Netanyahu said as he met the families of four people killed in a French shooting attack. © Gali Tibbon - AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (4th R) and French ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot (2nd R)
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AFP
Last updated: March 22, 2012

Netanyahu: Israel founded as a haven for Jews under threat

Israel was set up as a haven for Jews whose lives were threatened, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday as he met the families of four people killed in a French shooting attack.

Three French-Israeli children and a teacher, who were gunned down on Monday morning at a Jewish school in southern France, were buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday during a funeral attended by thousands.

During a condolence call to Eva Sandler, who lost her 30-year-old husband Jonathan and her two sons, Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 4, Netanyahu said Israel was created as a safe haven from just such threats.

"I saw the depth of the grief and pain of a young mother who is feeding a baby, who lost her husband and two of her little children, the agony of life cut short and hope which was crushed, and I think to myself: what cruelty, what barbarity can cause a man to do an act which is so inhumane," he said.

"For these murderers, wherever a Jews walks, every centimetre of land he walks on, is occupied territory. From their perspective, Jews have no place in the world. They want to murder Jews wherever they are, and for that reason the state of Israel was established," Netanyahu said.

He then went on to meet the family of seven-year-old Myriam Monsonego, whose father is the principle of the Toulouse school where the shooting occurred.

French Ambassador Christophe Bigot said he had come to show France's "strong solidarity" with the bereaved families.

"Those kids were our kids. They were French kids and also Israeli kids," he said, speaking in English. "We are engaged in a very determined fight against terrorism."

In the evening 250 people gathered silently in Tel Aviv to pay tribute to the victims of the Toulouse shootings.

"We are here to express our support for the families after what happened," Leah Bismuth told AFP.

Other participants held up banners that said: "Hatred has no limits, and so does our support."

French police said the man believed to be responsible for the shootings died on Thursday when he jumped out of a window during a shoot-out with police who stormed his flat in Toulouse after a 30-hour standoff.

Investigators believe 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent who claimed to be an Al-Qaeda militant, also killed three soldiers in two other attacks last week.

Al-Qaeda linked group Jund al-Khilafah claimed responsibility for the shootings this week in France, according to a statement posted on jihadist websites on Thursday.

"On... March 19th, our brother Yousef the Frenchman carried out an operation that shook the foundations of the Zionist Crusaders... and filled their hearts with terror," said the statement apparently referring to the school shooting.

"We claim responsibility for these operations," said the statement, adding that Israel's "crimes... will not go unpunished."

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