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France increases police presence at synagogues as Jews fear reprisals due to Israel-Hamas war

A French riot policeman (CRS) stands guard outside the Paris Synagogue.
A French riot policeman (CRS) stands guard outside the Paris Synagogue. Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Euronews with AFP
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Security has been stepped up around Jewish places of worship and schools in several French cities as members of the country's Jewish community fear a rise in antisemitic attacks because of the Israel-Hamas war.

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Jews in France said on Sunday they fear the war between Israel and Hamas could fan anti-Semitism and make them targets of violence.

France's Jewish population, estimated to be more than half a million, is the largest in Europe and the third-biggest in the world, after Israel and the United States.

Yonathan Arfi, the president of the Council of Jewish Institutions in France, said that there is often "a correlation between a flare-up of violence in the Middle East and anti-Semitic acts in France".

Attackers like Mohamed Merah who killed three children and an adult in a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 "justify their acts by what is happening to Palestinian children", he said.

Outside a synagogue in the Marais district of Paris, Ady Walter said he was "speechless for the first time ever".  Like many other Jewish places of worship and institutions, the synagogue had upgraded police protection after Saturday's Hamas attack on Israel.

Walter said he feared that the conflict could spread across the Middle East, but also that Jews in France could be "targeted by ricochet".

Earlier Sunday, Walter said he had asked his son to remove his kippa, a skullcap worn by orthodox Jewish men, when crossing the street. 

"You never know who might be in the cars passing by," he said.

The vice-president of a synagogue in Blanc-Mesnil north of Paris, Gerard Nathan, said the faithful celebrating the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah "said their prayers and then left as quickly as possible". 

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin early Sunday summoned his services for a security meeting "to protect our Jewish fellow citizens from any threat", he said on X, formerly Twitter.

Darmanin had earlier ordered security forces to "immediately step up vigilance, security and protection of Jewish community sites in France". 

He called for the use of soldiers from France's Operation Sentinelle, a special force deployed across the country since the 2015 terror attacks.

The conflict quickly made its way into French politics with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne condemning remarks by far-left politician Jean-Luc Melenchon and his La France Insoumise (LFI) party who said that the Hamas attack "comes in the context of an intensifying Israeli occupation policy".

Borne called the remark "a revolting ambiguity" and said the "anti-Zionism" of LFI "could also be a way to hide their anti-Semitism".

Jerome Guedj, a deputy for the Socialist party which is in a fragile alliance with LFI, said the question of remaining was "now on the table".

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