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17 May, 2024 07:04

French police kill man in alleged synagogue arson attempt

The would-be attacker reportedly tried to start a fire and confronted officers with a knife
AFP/JULIEN DE ROSA

A man has been shot dead by French police after attempting to set fire to a synagogue in the city of Rouen on Friday morning, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said.

The incident happened early in the morning, according to local media. Police spotted smoke coming from the synagogue building and discovered a man armed with a knife and an iron bar inside. The suspect approached the officers and was shot on the spot, reports have said.

Mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol said no other people were hurt in the incident, which he described as leaving the local community “bruised and in shock.” Firefighters called to the scene have brought the situation under control, the official added.

The Rouen synagogue is in the city center, on the site of a former Jewish place of worship that was destroyed in a pogrom in the late 11th century and replaced with a Christian church.

The Jewish community eventually retook possession of the land and made several attempts to reestablish a synagogue. The current building was erected in 1950, after its previous incarnation was destroyed by a British bomb during World War II.

French officials have yet to identify the knifeman and his possible motives.

In early March, a 62-year-old man wearing a kippah was assaulted in Paris as he was leaving a synagogue. The attacker reportedly shouted ethnic slurs as he tackled the victim to the ground, before fleeing the scene on foot. French authorities have ramped up security around synagogues amid tensions over the conflict in Gaza.

The Interior Ministry reported a sharp rise of anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2023, after the attack on Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas in October and the Jewish state’s retaliatory military campaign in the enclave.

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