Wed, Jan 14, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Synagogue in France firebombed

AP , SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE

Two Molotov cocktails were hurled at a synagogue north of Paris, the latest attack in what the interior minister said on Monday is a new wave of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim attacks over the violence in Gaza.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with French religious leaders and reiterated the need to avoid “transposing” onto French soil a foreign conflict that France has been working to ease, his office said.

In the latest attacks, firebombs broke a window and charred the walls of a pizzeria on the ground floor at Chabad House Ohr Manahem, in the town of Saint-Denis, said Rabbi Isroeil Belinow, the synagogue’s assistant rabbi. No injuries were reported.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said France has faced a “very clear increase” in anti-Semitic attacks as well as a “new wave of acts against our Muslim countrymen” since Israel started an offensive against the militant group Hamas in Gaza on Dec. 27 in response to rocket attacks.

“We must do everything to stop the importation into our country of the situation that’s taking place in the Middle East,” Alliot-Marie told RTL Radio. “I am not worried, but I’m vigilant.”

She declined to provide specific figures on the increase, though she insisted police have been given “very precise instructions” about protecting religious sites and places of worship.

France has Western Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and Middle East tensions have in the past spilled over into vandalism or other incidents.

In the Chabad House attack, prayers had just finished and the rabbi was getting ready to go home on Sunday night when he heard an explosion, Belinow said. Neighbors saw flames and called police.

Three more unexploded Molotov cocktails were still lodged on Monday in the thatched roof of a children’s play area that is part of the Chabad House complex. Belinow said police found 15 other unignited gasoline bombs nearby.

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