Authorities in Tunisia launched an inquiry into the shooting at a synagogue that left two Jewish pilgrims and three members of the nation’s security forces dead on Wednesday.
Security personnel shot and killed the gunman on the island of Djerba before he could enter the structure. His motive is still unknown.
It was unknown if the attacker, a member of the Tunisian National Guard, mainly targeted Jews in Tuesday’s attack. The historic Ghriba synagogue on the island is considered one of the world’s oldest Jewish synagogues.
According to a medical official cited by Tunisia’s TAP news agency, the incident’s dead toll increased to five on Wednesday when a police guard hospitalized immediately after the attack died from his injuries.
Four other Tunisian security personnel, one in severe condition, are still being treated in a Djerba hospital.
Perez Trabelsi, the chair of the synagogue’s committee, was there throughout the incident and spoke to The Associated Press about his shock “when the sound of the cartridges broke out.”
Like most of those gathered in the ‘oukala,’ a sizable area next to the synagogue, I was terrified.
Everybody was in a panic. Fearing that the shots coming from outside would harm them, several sought safety in the rooms.
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.”
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 Tunisian Interior Ministry reported that four people also sustained injuries.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, regretted the deaths of two “members of our people” in Djerba. He issued a statement expressing his sympathies to the victims’ families on behalf of himself and the Israeli government.
The attacker, a guardsman employed by the naval base in the coastal city of Aghir on the island, killed a fellow guardsman with his service weapon before stealing ammunition and making his way to the Ghriba synagogue, according to the Tunisian Interior Ministry.
He arrived at the location and started shooting at the security personnel posted at the temple. According to the ministry, he was killed before he reached the entry by the guards’ retaliation.