image Photo: Reuters

Fatal attack on Tunisia Synagogue

An Israeli and his French cousin were killed along with a security guard.

By Erin Viner

The attack occurred at a 2,500-year-old synagogue amid annual celebration of the Lag B’Omer holiday on the island of Djerba, off the coast of southern Tunisia, 500 km (300 miles) from the capital Tunis.

The annual pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue regularly attracts hundreds of Jews from Europe and Israel.

The deadly incident unfolded after a guard at a naval installation on Djerba first shot a colleague and seized his ammunition before heading towards the synagogue, said the Tunisian Interior Ministry in a statement.

After reaching the Jewish holy site, the assailant targeted the congregants and security personnel protecting the site. Hundreds trapped inside during the hours-long siege included former Israeli Member of Knesset Yomtob Kalfon.

Two visitors and a security officer were killed and at least 10 others were injured before additional Tunisian forces shot the gunman dead.

The two Jewish fatalities were identified as Aviel Haddad, an Israeli who was living in Tunisia, and his French cousin Ben Haddad.

While a motive has not yet been established, radical Islamists have previously targeted the pilgrimage in Djerba. Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the synagogue in 2002 with a truck bomb, killing 21 Western tourists.

Predominantly Muslim Tunisia is home to one of North Africa’s largest Jewish communities. Though they now number fewer than 1,800 people, Jews have lived in Tunisia since Roman times.

United States Ambassador Joey Hood had visited the synagogue on Monday along with the US Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt, according to US Embassy post on Twitter.

Islamist terrorists have also carried out other attacks in Tunisia. The last significant one was the bombing of police stationed outside the United States Embassy in 2020 that killed one officer. Two suicide blasts targeted police outside the French Embassy in 2019, also killing one officer.

Scores of tourists were also murdered by Islamist terrorists in two separate attacks at a beach resort and a Tunis museum in 2015.