A terrorist squad today hit at the heart of Paris’ traditional Jewish quarter, the Marais section, killing six people and wounding 15 more, some of them seriously. Four terrorists opened fire on customers eating lunch in the city’s best known Jewish restaurant and then fired on fleeing shopkeepers and passersby. Today’s attack was the deadliest carried out in recent years against a Western Jewish community.
Eyewitnesses told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the commando hit-team, described as “Arab-looking,” were “out to kill as many of us as possible. They shot at everyone and at everything.” A kosher butcher who was about to open his shop for lunch said, “I hid behind a car, and even then they shot at me. They wanted Jewish blood.”
Police say the attack “is obviously connected with the Lebanese crisis,” but investigators do not know as yet whether the terrorists were Palestinians or whether they belong to the extreme leftwing Direct Action organization which carried out a number of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish attacks during the last few days.
These included the bombings of a Jewish shop which imports goods from Israel, a bank formerly owned by Israeli shareholders and the Rothschild family, and a car owned by an Israeli diplomat. There were no casualties in these incidents. Direct Action is believed to have ties to the PLO, the Red Army Faction of West Germany and the Red Brigade of Italy.
According to some eyewitnesses, the attack started after 1 p.m. Four men, waiting in the Goldenberg restaurant, known for its traditional Jewish cooking, suddenly drew out from under their coats submachineguns and sprayed the large restaurant and delicatessen store. The restaurant is in the heart of the Rue de Rosiers, Paris’ old Jewish quarter in which poor Jews have lived for more than 100 years.
Other eyewitnesses said that two other men, stationed outside the restaurant, opened fire as soon as they heard the initial shooting. Police believe, however, that only four terrorists were actually involved in the attack.
The terrorists continued shooting while running through the maze of narrow alleys, leaving behind a trail of wounded and dead. There are three women among the six killed.
Police stationed in front of a nearby synagogue, La Synagogue de la rue des Pavees, went into action as soon as they heard the first shots. Policemen started chasing the terrorists but lost track of them in the old quarter. One policeman, a plainclothes detective, was seriously injured by one of the quarter’s residents.
Police say the detective, stationed near the synagogue, drew his gun to trade fire with the attackers when one of the residents apparently taking him for a terrorist, shot from a window with a hunting rifle. The officer was wounded in the face and the uniformed police who were on the spot first tried to give him. first aid. The window sniper has not yet been identified and police are conducting a house-to-house search to find the gun.
Within minutes after the attack, the street, in which the wounded and the dead were still lying, filled with people. As ambulances started to reach the spot, hundreds of Jews took to the street shouting “revenge” and accusing the French government of “encouraging the terrorists” by supporting the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut.
“(President Francois) Mitterrand and (Foreign Minister Claude) Cheysson are guilty,” people shouted outside Goldenberg’s. Others wept. Doctors and police had to disperse the crowd to evacuate the wounded.
The Israel Embassy issued a communique blaming the PLO for the attack and stressed that Israel’s action in Lebanon was undertaken to try and erase world terrorism from its base in Beirut. Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and political parties also condemned the attack.
A special representative of Mitterrand, Elysee Palace chief of staff Jean-Louis Bianco, and an aide to Premier Pierre Mouroy came to the site to express the government’s sympathy. Interior Minister Gaston Defferre flew to Paris from Marseilles as soon as he was informed of the attack to personally supervise the investigation.
Jewish communities in Western Europe have been the target of several attacks in recent years:
* March 27, 1979 — 33 people, mainly Jewish students, were wounded after a grenade was thrown into a Jewish youth hostel in Paris.
* July 27, 1980 — A 14-year-old boy was killed and 20 people wounded in Antwerp, Belgium, while waiting for a bus to take them to summer camp.
* October 3, 1980 — Four people were killed and nine wounded by a bomb explosion outside the Paris liberal synagogue on Rue Copernic.
*August 29, 1981 — Two people were killed and 17 wounded by a three-man commando team who attacked the Vienna synagogue.
*August 20, 1981 — Three people were killed and scores wounded by a bomb explosion in the center of Antwerp’s Jewish Quarter.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.