Yael Hania, 54, lives above the Hyper Casher kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes that was attacked Friday by Islamist terrorist Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four people before being shot dead by anti-terrorist RAID police.
Hania, who often comes to Israel to visit her mother and brother who live in Kiryat Gat, has often talked about the fears she has in her neighborhood, especially during last summer’s war in Gaza, despite the good relations between the many different communities.
“Still, you cannot imagine what it means to live on the Peripherique,” she said following the attack, referring to the main ring road that surrounds Paris on the border of some of the capital’s most deprived suburbs.
Hania told The Jerusalem Post she heard an explosion while watching the nonstop news coverage of security forces hunting down Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said Kouachi, the chief suspects in Wednesday’s attack at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, in which 12 were killed.
She looked outside and saw police swarming the area.
“I asked her not to go out. But she did and now, she can’t go back. The area is closed, so she is hiding in a restaurant,” her close friend Claude Berger said during the siege.
Shocked, Hania realized that what Berger expected had occurred – that after Charlie Hebdo, Jews would be targeted. “He told me it will continue, but against the Jewish community,” she said.
At night, when she feels insecure, Hania prefers to stay with Berger, a Jewish journalist from the chic Saint Paul quarter, who lives near the pharmacy at which she works. Last July, she escaped the big anti-Israeli demonstrations in Paris by staying with him. That’s where she found herself following the siege and spoke to the Post by telephone.
In the restaurant where Hania took refuge, she said Arab customers were discussing what had happened with some claiming that the “victims deserved it,” while others said “no one does.”
Marie, one of the unlucky customers in the supermarket, told France’s TV 5, she was “very scared by all the explosives he [the terrorist] had,” and by the “two bodies of people dead killed at the beginning.”
Newsweekly Le Point reported the account of Michael B., whose wife sent him with his three-year-old son to Hyper Cacher to buy chicken and bread for Shabbat, on its website.
“When I was going to the checkout of the supermarket, I heard a loud explosion [and] saw a black man armed with two Kalashnikovs. I immediately understood what was going on, grabbed my son and ran with all the others to the back of the store,” he said. “From there ,we all fled to the basement, where we stayed, terrorized, in a cold room. Five minutes later, a woman employee was sent by the gunman to tell us to come back ‘or there would be a massacre.’” They all refused, he said, adding that his child was in a panic. After a while, the woman came back with the same message, and this time Michael said he decided to follow her. On his way upstairs, he said saw a man who had been killed on the stairs lying in his own blood.
Upon reaching the store, Michael said the terrorist introduced himself, saying ‘I am Amedy Coulibaly, a Muslim from Mali. I belong to the Islamic State.’ He never stopped “walking backwards and forwards, brandishing his weapons, justifying his act, talking about Palestine, French prisons, his bothers in Syria...,” Michael said.