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France, Israel Honor Terror Victims

  • VOA News

French President Francois Hollande looks at a coffin as he attends a national tribute at Paris Prefecture for the three officers killed during last week's attacks by Islamic militants, Jan. 13, 2015.

French President Francois Hollande looks at a coffin as he attends a national tribute at Paris Prefecture for the three officers killed during last week's attacks by Islamic militants, Jan. 13, 2015.

Families and colleagues of three French police officers killed in last week's terror attacks in Paris paid their final respects Tuesday.

French President Francois Hollande stood before the flag-draped coffins and praised their heroism, awarding the officers posthumously the nation's prestigious Legion D'honneur. The ceremony was held at the central police headquarters in Paris, near the famed Notre Dame cathedral.

"Thanks to them, thanks to you, freedom won over barbarism. And it is the people of France who stood up to express its attachment to living together, in harmony and fraternity, in front of the leaders of the whole world," Hollande said.

"Thanks to you, with you, France is standing. Long live the Republic. Long live France," he added.

Hollande told the victims' mourning families on Tuesday: "They [the officers] died carrying out their duty with courage, bravery, dignity. They died as police officers. ... I assure you that the whole of France shares your pain," according to a report by the French news agency AFP.

Hollande paid tribute to Ahmed Merabet, 40, a Muslim policeman, who was "executed in a cowardly way" by the killers as he lay wounded on a Paris sidewalk as they fled the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last Wednesday.

The other police officers killed were Franck Brinsolaro, 49, who was assigned to protect Charb, the lead cartoonist at Charlie Hebdo, and Clarissa Jean-Philippe, 26, from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, who was gunned down by Amedy Coulibaly as she confronted him on a patrol.

Convening for the first time since the massacre, France's National Assembly observed a minute of silence honoring the 17 victims in a special session on Tuesday.

Israel funeral

At nearly the same time in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told mourners at a funeral for four Jewish victims of last week's terror spree that radical Islamist terrorism is not just the enemy of the Jewish people, but of all humanity.

Netanyahu said it is time for people of all cultures to unite and get rid of such radical elements.

The four Jewish victims all died last Friday in an attack on a kosher grocery store on the eastern edge of Paris. They were buried in a Jerusalem cemetery Tuesday.

Netanyahu stirred controversy in France Sunday when he urged French Jews to emigrate to Israel to avoid what he called a rising tide of anti-Semitism.

The grocery store attack happened two days after two extremists shot and killed 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Wipe out IS fighters

Meanwhile, France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday that Islamic State fighters must be wiped out, indicating that Paris would not pull back from military operations overseas after 17 people were killed by home-grown militants in Paris last week.

After the United States, France has the largest number of planes and troops involved in the coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which last year took control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

France also has about 3,500 troops and special forces operating in the Sahel-Sahara region, hunting down al-Qaida-linked militants. France intervened in Mali to oust Islamist militants from its former colony in January 2013 and Le Drian noted that two years later French forces were now fighting the “same threat” on home soil.

“It is the same enemy. Our forces are on the ground here because ... for our troops it's the same fight,” Le Drian told Europe 1 radio, referring to the 10,000 soldiers being deployed across France to secure key sites following last week's attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by Islamist gunmen.

Parliament will vote later Tuesday on whether to extend France's military mission in Iraq, four months after its launch.

In a posthumous video, one of last week's killers cited France's operations abroad as one reason for his actions, but there have been no major calls in France for its troops to withdraw from operations against Islamic militants.

Charlie Hebdo to publish

Meanwhile, the publishers of Charlie Hebdo said the Prophet Muhammad will be on the cover of the next issue, which comes out on Wednesday.

In a preview released to media this week, the Prophet, shown with a tear on his cheek, is seen holding a sign saying "I Am Charlie" and standing under the headline "All is Forgiven."

The publishers of the first post-terror attack issue of the magazine said they plan to run at least 3 million copies. Charlie Hebdo usually prints about 60,000 copies every week.

'Sensitive sites' protected

Authorities said France remains at high risk for terrorism.

Defense Minister Le Drian said he is deploying 10,000 troops to help police with security at so-called "sensitive sites." Those include Jewish schools, synagogues and mosques.

Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.