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French police gun down armed man suspected of planning to set fire to synagogue

The French interior ministry said the man was "neutralised" who was "clearly wanted" to set fire to the Jewish worship place. The regional unrest in the Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war has led to a rise in antisemitism in France.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Paris Updated on: May 17, 2024 13:00 IST
France police (Representational Image)
Image Source : REUTERS France police (Representational Image)

Paris: French police have shot and killed an armed suspect who appeared to be planning to set fire to a synagogue in the Normandy city of Rouen early on Friday, according to the Interior Ministry. France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said officers "neutralised" an armed individual who "clearly wanted " to set fire to the city's synagogue.

"In Rouen, national police officers neutralized early this morning an armed individual clearly wanting to set fire to the city's synagogue. I congratulate them for their responsiveness and courage," he said on X. The ministry confirmed that the suspect was shot and killed. It gave no other immediate details. Regional French broadcaster France 3 said firefighters were on the site.

National police said the officers were alerted early Friday morning that smoke was rising from the synagogue and came face to face with the man when they got there. The national police information service said the man surged toward officers with a knife and a metal bar. An officer opened fire and killed the man, police said.

Rouen Mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignaol said the attack on the synagogue did not just affect the Jewish community, but the entire city was "battered and in shock", BBC reported. When they reached the scene one of the officers shot the man who was armed with a knife and an iron bar. The mayor said firefighters were on scene working to control the outbreak of the fire at the synagogue.

There appeared to be no victims other than the armed man, he added. Against the backdrop of tensions in the Middle East and Israel's ground offensive in the Gaza Strip, France recently raised its alert level to the highest level.

Tensions in France over rising antisemitism

The number of antisemitic acts registered in France and neighbouring Belgium rose sharply since Hamas’ attack on Israel triggered the war in Gaza, according to a report earlier this month. In France, data from the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Community Protection Service watchdog showed that 1,676 antisemitic acts were reported in 2023, compared to 436 the previous year.

According to the Council of Jewish Institutions in France, the country’s main Jewish interest group, the number of antisemitic acts in the three months that followed the October 7 attack equalled those of the previous three years combined. The council noted that 57.8 per cent of anti-Semitic acts in 2023 were directed against individuals.

In a survey of 1,000 Israeli adults, 55 per cent said French society was antisemitic, a figure significantly higher than their rating of the levels of Jew-hatred in Poland, Germany, and the United Kingdom, The Times of Israel reported. The Israelis sampled rated Germany as the least antisemitic, with only 21 per cent of respondents saying its society was antisemitic, followed by Poland (38 per cent) and the United Kingdom (40 per cent).

(with inputs from agencies)

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