JERUSALEM – Relatives sobbed inconsolably by the gravesides of a rabbi and three children gunned down at a Jewish school in France and brought to Jerusalem for burial on Wednesday.
The four where killed Monday in the French city of Toulouse when a man on a motorcycle opened fire with two handguns outside the school. Hundreds of French police descended on the suspect's hideout in Toulouse on Wednesday, but by midday still hadn't drawn him out after hours of gunbattles and negotiations.
At the funeral ceremony in Jerusalem, Eva Sandler, the rabbi's widow and mother of two of the slain children, and Yaffa Monsenego, the mother of the third, burst repeatedly into tears as speaker after speaker eulogized the dead.
The women had flown to Israel to bury their loved ones.
The slain members of the Sandler family were wrapped in white prayer shawls while the body of Monsenego's daughter was draped in black velvet. Israeli media reported that Eva Sandler is pregnant and arrived in Israel with her remaining child, a toddler.
About 400 people gathered at the cemetery, including grieving relatives who arrived from France, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and leaders of the French Jewish community.
In his eulogy, Israeli parliament speaker Reuven Rivlin said the Jewish people "once again find themselves facing beasts ... driven out their minds by hatred."
Juppe said "an attack on a Jew in France is not only an issue for French Jews. ... Anti-semitism is against all French values."
The school attack was the bloodiest France has ever known and the bloodiest assault on Jewish targets there in decades.
Earlier Wednesday, an El Al Israel Airlines flight from Paris brought the bodies of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons Arieh, 5, and Gabriel, 3, and 8-year-old Myriam Monsenego to Israel. The children held dual Israeli-French citizenship; the rabbi had lived in Israel for years and the families had asked to bury them in Israel.
After the plane landed at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport before dawn, memorial prayers were read over the plain pine coffins bearing Stars of David before they were placed in four ambulances for transport to the Har Menuchot cemetery.
In Toulouse, hundreds of French police on Wednesday surrounded the hideout of a man suspected in the school shooting and two other attacks that killed three French paratroops. A gunbattle erupted and police were trying to negotiate the man's surrender.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant described the suspect as a 24-year-old French national who claims connections to Al Qaeda and "wants to take revenge for Palestinian children" killed in the Middle East.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad denounced the deadly shooting attack and condemned the link to Palestinian children.
"It's time for criminals to stop using the Palestinian cause to justify their terrorist actions," Fayyad said in a statement. "The children of Palestine want nothing but dignified lives for themselves and for all the children in the world."