The ancient synagogue on the Mediterranean island of Djerba was explicitly targeted by a member of the Tunisian national guard who carried out the attack that left five people dead, according to the interior minister of Tunisia.
Following the incident on Tuesday, Interior Minister Kamel Fekih vowed to “spare no effort to ensure the stability of the country” and to protect visitors.
Two civilians and three Tunisian service members were killed while participating in a worldwide observance at the El Ghriba synagogue. There were twelve more injuries.
One of the earliest Jewish temples in the world is thought to be El Ghriba. Tunisian officials identified Wissam Khazri as the shooter, who also claimed that he plotted the attack without providing any other context.
Fekih claimed that security personnel had dead the shooter within 120 seconds after their arrival outside the synagogue complex.
Without referring to the shooting as a terrorist assault, the minister called it a “cowardly criminal attack.”
The French prosecutor’s office for counterterrorism has started an inquiry. One of the victims was a citizen of France.
The civilian deaths were identified as cousins by Israeli and Tunisian authorities and their families: Aviel Haddad, 30, who held dual citizenship with Tunisia and Israel, and Benjamin Haddad, 42, French.
The interior minister urged security forces to be on the lookout for any attempts to destabilize the nation of North Africa.
The attack on the synagogue is a new blow to Tunisia’s once-thriving tourism economy and robust Jewish community. Tunisia is embroiled in political and economic crises.
At a national guard post on the coast of Djerba, according to Fekri, the shooter killed one of his coworkers and snatched his weapon before riding a National Guard motorcycle to a schoolyard 200 meters away from the Ghriba temple, where hundreds of devotees were present.
“He shot the first victim at around 8:13 p.m. after keeping an eye on the movement of a traffic police car parked nearby. And he then approached the security personnel manning the perimeter of the synagogue, starting fire indiscriminately to kill as many people as possible. But immediately, he was surrounded and shot,” Fekri told Tunisian media.
He claimed that the author’s failure to carry out his goal was evidenced by the fact that “celebration quickly returned to the island of Djerba, a land of peace and tolerance.”
The goal of the message from Tunisian President Kais Saied to his countrymen and international guests was to reassure them that “Tunisia will remain a safe country, despite the criminal attempts to destabilize it.”
At a National Security Council meeting on Wednesday night, Saied asserted that the incident was planned to foment strife and undermine the summer travel season.
The state, he continued, “is strong in its institutions, its security forces and its people are awake, so these criminals will not succeed.”
Perez Trabelsi, the committee’s chair for the synagogue, was present in the place of worship during the attack and told The Associated Press of his terror.
Like most of those gathered in the ‘oukala,’ a sizable area next to the synagogue, I was terrified. Everybody was in a panic.
Many sought safety within the rooms out of concern for their safety from the bullets coming from outside, he claimed.
According to Trabelsi, the synagogue had more visitors this year than in a while—about 6,000 individuals from the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and other countries.
He expressed his sadness that the observance of the Jewish pilgrimage to the location “was spoiled by those who wish Tunisia harm.”