French police kill a man who tried to burn down a Rouen synagogue

Police shot dead a man in northern France on Friday after he tried to burn down a synagogue in the city of Rouen and attacked officers who tried to stop him, French authorities said. .

Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, the mayor of Rouen, a city of about 110,000 people, told reporters that firefighters had brought the outbreak under control and that no one other than the attacker was harmed.

The identity and motive of the man who attacked the synagogue is unknown, but French authorities consider this an anti-Semitic act. Local prosecutors opened an investigation into “religiously motivated arson” and assault.

Authorities in France have sounded the alarm over a rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country in recent months, amid war in Gaza. Mr. Mayer-Rossignol said that the episode was still being investigated but “it is very likely that it was a deeply anti-Semitic act.”

Anyone who attacks the Jewish community, he added, “is attacking all of France.”

Mr. Mayer-Rossignol said the police’s initial discovery was that the man broke into the synagogue by climbing on a trash can at about 6:30 a.m. He went to the first floor and threw “incendiary substances” inside, starting a fire that caused “significant damage” but did not harm anyone, Mr. Mayer-Rossignol said.

The synagogue is located in the historic center of Rouen, a short walk from the city’s famous cathedral.

“The fire caused a lot of damage,” Natacha Ben Haim, head of the local Jewish community association, told reporters, adding that furniture was burned, walls burned. black and part of the roof collapsed. “It’s terrible,” she said.

Frédéric Teillet, the top prosecutor in Rouen, said in a news conference that firefighters and police who quickly arrived at the scene saw smoke coming from the synagogue’s windows and a man on the roof. with a kitchen knife in one hand and a metal chisel in the other. others.

The man yelled at the officers, threw a chisel at them, jumped from the roof and then brandished a knife as he ran toward one of the officers, ignoring orders to stop, Teillet said.

The officer fired five shots, four of which hit the man, Teillet said.

Mr Teillet said the man was carrying a local public transport card with his name on it but investigators were still verifying his identity.

France is on high alert against the risk of terrorist attacks and other potential security threats. especially in the run-up to the Summer Olympics in Paris, scheduled to begin in July.

The country has been traumatized by large-scale Islamist terrorist attacks 2015 And 2016and a string of smaller but still deadly shootings and stabbings in the following years ensured that Security and intelligence forces are still under tension.

France is currently at its highest terror alert level, raised in March after a deadly attack on a concert hall in Moscow that was claimed by the Islamic State.

The war in Gaza and the rising tensions between Israel and Iran also left authorities worried about potential consequences in France, home to some of Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim communities.

In April, after Iran conduct air strikes against IsraelMr. Darmanin ordered increased security at synagogues and Jewish schools across France.

Gabriel Attal, Prime Minister of France, said this month that more than 360 anti-Semitic incidents – including threats, assaults and other acts – were recorded in France in the first three months of 2024, a 300% increase over the previous year.

After the attack in Rouen, Yonathan Arfi, head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations, said in a social media post“Burning the synagogue was an attempt to intimidate all Jews.”

The attack and shooting in Rouen occurred a few days later a Holocaust memorial was vandalized in Paris. The memorial, a wall of names honoring those who helped rescue Jews in France during World War II, was defaced with red hand-painted graffiti.

Chmouel Lubecki, rabbi at the synagogue in Rouen, told news channel BFMTV that he knew nothing about specific threats against the synagogue, but he lamented the “tense” atmosphere and said the fire did not surprise him.

“We have this fear inside, but when it happens it’s still shocking,” Rabbi Lubecki said. He called on the Jewish community to light candles for Shabbat on Friday “to show that we are not afraid and that we are continuing to practice our Judaism despite the circumstances.”


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