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Tunisian naval guard kills 4 in shooting at Djerba synagogue

Attack targeted annual Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to one of Africa’s oldest synagogues

Security forces walking outside the entrance of Ghriba synagogue, following an attack, in Djerba, Tunisia, May 9, 2023. (Photo: Screenshot)

A Tunisian naval guard killed two Jewish worshippers and another two security personnel in an apparent terror attack at El Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia on Tuesday night.

The perpetrator, an officer who was a guard at the Djerba naval station, first killed a fellow officer and then took his ammunition to carry out the synagogue attack, according to the Tunisian Interior Ministry.

He fired wildly as he approached the synagogue, killing two Jewish visitors and another security officer, and injuring nine others. He was killed by security forces at the heavily-guarded synagogue.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry announced this morning that the two Jewish visitors killed were cousins, one with dual Israeli-Tunisian citizenship and the other with French citizenship.

The synagogue was locked down during the incident and for several hours after, to ensure the safety of those inside.

While the Tunisian Interior Ministry did not call the attack an act of terror, they released a statement condemning it.

"Investigations are continuing in order to shed light on the motives for this cowardly aggression,” the statement read.

According to Reuters, Islamist militants have previously targeted the Djerba pilgrimage.

Tunisia saw a surge in Islamic militancy following the ousting of dictator Zine Al-Abidine Bin Ali in 2011. The last terror activity to target foreigners was in 2015, when a pair of attacks in Sousse and Tunis targeted popular tourist sites.

The El Ghriba Synagogue, located on the island of Djerba in Tunisia, is reported to be the oldest standing synagogue in Africa, with structures dating to between the 4th and 6th centuries. It is the site of a regular pilgrimage for Jewish worshippers during Lag B’Omer, primarily from Israel and France.  

Tunisia is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in the Arab Muslim world. Around 1,500 Jews live in Tunisia today. That population was much larger before 1948, around 100,000. Historically, Jews have lived in Tunisia since Roman times.

While Tunisia does not have formal diplomatic ties with Israel, it regularly grants visas to Israelis coming for the pilgrimage. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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