(JTA) — Mohammed Merah, the self-proclaimed attacker of a Jewish school in Toulouse, jumped to his death from his apartment window during a police raid on his home in that southwestern French city.
Merah, 23, and police had been engaged in a standoff for more than a day when police entered his apartment on Thursday afternoon.
Police initially did not find Merah, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told reporters immediately after the raid, but he then came out of the bathroom shooting. Police returned fire and Merah jumped from the window, still shooting, Gueant said. Merah was found dead; he reportedly sustained a fatal gunshot to the head when he jumped.
Merah, a French national of Algerian origin, had claimed ties to al-Qaida in France and reportedly had been known to French intelligence for many years.
According to Gueant, Merah told French police he killed the Jewish students at the Ozar Hatorah school in revenge for Palestinian children killed in Gaza, and had killed three French soldiers for serving in Afghanistan. Police found videos he took of the killings with a camera hung around his neck, according to reports.
The suspect’s brother and mother reportedly were arrested, and two police officers were injured in a shootout outside the home early Wednesday, according to reports.
Also Wednesday, the Ozar Hatorah school reopened for the first time since the attack two days earlier, in which a man riding a motorbike opened fire outside the school where students were waiting to enter the building at the start of the school day. Merah during his standoff with police said he was the attacker, according to French officials.
Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, and his two young sons, as well as the 7-year-old daughter of the school’s principal, were killed in the attack. They were buried Wednesday in Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday morning visited with Eva Sandler, the wife of the slain rabbi and mother of the two boys, Arieh and Gabriel. Eva Sandler is pregnant and has a year-old daughter.
“I saw the pain and sorrow of a young mother, nursing a child, who lost her husband and two children," he said upon exiting the home. "What barbaric cruelty could motivate someone to commit so inhuman an act."
Netanyahu also visited the parents and siblings of Miriam Monsonego.
“To think about little Miriam, who was murdered so brutally, this is awful," he said. "Bereavement is like disability; it is painful and debilitating, like a limb of one’s body has been cut off. We all pray that you will find the strength to deal with your pain,” he told them.
Netanyahu also suggested to Miriam’s father, the school’s principal, that the school be named for the victims.
The Sandler family also received a visit from France’s ambassador to Israel, Christophe Bigot.