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May 10, 2023 8:19 am

Jewish Cousins Among Victims of Tunisia Shooting

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Members of the security forces stand near the entrance of Ghriba synagogue, following an attack, in Djerba, Tunisia May 10, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer – Two of the four people shot dead in a terrorist attack at a synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba were identified on Wednesday as Aviel Haddad, a dual Israeli-Tunisian citizen, and Benjamin Haddad of France.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed that Aviel held Israeli citizenship.

“Among the dead were two Jewish cousins, one with Israeli citizenship and the other with foreign citizenship,” said the ministry in a statement, adding that officials were in contact with the family of the deceased and had offered assistance.

A Tunisian national guard member fired “randomly” at people near Tunisia’s El Ghriba Synagogue on Tuesday evening as Lag B’Omer celebrations were underway. He was shot dead after killing the Haddads and two security guards.

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A third security guard succumbed to his wounds, the TAP news agency reported on Wednesday, citing hospital officials. That raised the death toll to six, including the shooter.

He also wounded at least eight others.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the killings, writing on Twitter that Washington “deplores the attack in Tunisia coinciding with the annual Jewish pilgrimage that draws faithful to the El Ghriba Synagogue from around the world. We express condolences to the Tunisian people and commend the rapid action of Tunisian security forces.”

Video footage shared on social media appeared to depict loud gunshots that were audible within the synagogue complex, and some reports said that hundreds of worshippers—even up to 1,000—were present at the time.

Earlier in the day, the US embassy in Tunisia posted that officials—including Joey Hood, the American ambassador to Tunisia, and Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, as well as senior Tunisian officials—had attended the opening ceremony of an annual pilgrimage at the synagogue the previous evening.

Some believe that the synagogue—or at least, its antecedent—dates back to the exile after the destruction of either the First Temple (586 BCE) or the Second Temple (70 C.E.). The current building is late 19th century, apparently on the site of a former sixth-century synagogue.

It has been the site of previous attacks, including a firebombing in 2018.

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