TOULOUSE, France -- The French president yesterday promised Jewish children targeted in a deadly attack by an Islamist militant that their country will protect them and fight to stamp out the anti-Semitism that left four dead in their schoolyard.
The school's director, his voice cracking, recalled the "dark Monday" when he lost his young daughter and his faith in the safety of the community he built. Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego, who said he and his wife had worked to transform the school in Toulouse into a center of learning for young Jews, slumped as he recalled the day his 8-year-old daughter, a teacher and two of the teacher's young sons died.
On March 19, French-born Mohammed Merah stormed the school, shooting 8-year-old Myriam Monsonego in the head and several others on the schoolyard before getting on his motorbike and driving away. In an earlier shooting, three French paratroopers, two of North African descent and one from the Antilles, were killed.
Francois Hollande, in the final throes of campaigning for the French presidency, visited the school that day. He came yesterday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Wednesday, the French government expelled a Muslim preacher for his anti-Semitic speeches, calls for holy war and defense of violence against women; and earlier in October security forces said they dismantled a network of French-born radical Islamists bent on targeting Jews, accusing the group in a firebomb attack on a kosher grocery outside Paris.
"Anti-Semitism turns into a fire that quickly engulfs all in its path. It was no coincidence that the murderer of Toulouse killed not only Jews but also French soldiers, Christian and Muslim, with no distinction," Netanyahu said.