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Hundreds gather in Paris to light candles after synagogue attacked

The synagogue in Rouen is pictured after a man armed with a knife and a metal bar is suspected of having set fire, Friday, May 17, 2024.
The synagogue in Rouen is pictured after a man armed with a knife and a metal bar is suspected of having set fire, Friday, May 17, 2024. Copyright Oleg Cetinic/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Oleg Cetinic/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP
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Around 200 people gathered at the Place de la République in Paris at the start of the Jewish Shabbat to remember the synagogue attack in Rouen.

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On Friday evening, approximately 200 people  gathered at Place de la République in Paris to illuminate candles marking the commencement of Shabbat, following an assault on a synagogue in Rouen earlier in the day.

The timing of the attack, just hours before the onset of Shabbat, the sacred rest day in the Jewish faith, heightened concerns among the tens of thousands of Jews who had planned to attend synagogue services that evening.

The Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) issued a call to Parisians, urging them to join in the candle-lighting ceremony at 6 pm as a demonstration of solidarity against antisemitism.

A man dies after being shot by French police, the attacker was armed with a knife and a metal bar, suspected of starting a fire that severely damaged a synagogue in the Normandy city of Rouen early Friday. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin labelled the attack as "clearly" antisemitic, causing outrage among Jewish leaders amidst a surge in hate crimes since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted.

A view of the synagogue where a man armed with a knife and a metal bar is suspected of having set fire, Friday, May 17, 2024 in Rouen, France.
A view of the synagogue where a man armed with a knife and a metal bar is suspected of having set fire, Friday, May 17, 2024 in Rouen, France.Oleg Cetinic/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

The suspected Algerian national, had not been flagged as a potential extremist, according to Darmanin. After inspecting the fire-ravaged synagogue, Darmanin revealed that the man had sought permission to remain in France for medical treatment but was denied, subsequently landing on a police wanted list for possible deportation.

Darmanin congratulated the 25-year-old police officer for using his service weapon against the assailant, describing him as "particularly dangerous" and "violent." The officer's actions were deemed "extremely courageous" and "professional," warranting decoration, as per the minister.

"This antisemitic act in Rouen affects us all, deeply" Darmanin said, emphasising France's commitment to making France a safe space for its Jewish population, ensuring their right to practice their religion without fear.

A demonstrators holds a poster reading « Synagogue burnt, Republic in danger, let's not be afraid » during a gathering in Paris, , May 17, 2024.
A demonstrators holds a poster reading « Synagogue burnt, Republic in danger, let's not be afraid » during a gathering in Paris, , May 17, 2024.Nicholas Garriga/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

In the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict, France has witnessed a surge in antisemitic incidents, exacerbated by its significant Jewish and Muslim populations. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations in major cities and student occupations of university campuses in solidarity with Gaza have further intensified tensions.

According to French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal France has recently suffered a sharp increase in antisemitic acts following the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, extending into the current year. 

Authorities recorded 366 antisemitic incidents in the first three months of 2024, marking a 300% surge from the same period last year. Attal highlighted that over 1,200 antisemitic acts were reported in the final quarter of 2023, tripling the figure from the entire year of 2022.

"We are witnessing an explosion of hatred," Attal lamented, underscoring the urgent need to address and combat rising antisemitism in France.

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