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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 10:21 GMT 11:21 UK
Fresh attack on French Jewish site
Jews attend a ceremony after the burning of the Marseille synagogue
France's Jewish community have asked for extra protection
A Jewish prayer house in the French city of Strasbourg has been partially destroyed in what appears to be the latest in a string of arson attacks against the country's Jewish community.

passions that flare up in the Middle East must not flare up here

Prime Minister
Lionel Jospin
The wooden doors of the building were burnt down in the fire, making it the fourth Jewish site to be attacked in less than four days and the second in the city.

Over the weekend, the doors of a synagogue in Strasbourg were destroyed in a fire, a synagogue in Marseille was burnt to the ground and in Lyon another was rammed by two cars and subsequently set alight.

Officials believe that the escalating conflict in the Middle East has stirred hostility towards the country's 700,000-strong Jewish community, which has demanded that the authorities start providing better protection for themselves and their property.

Middle East tensions

More than 1,000 riot police are due to be deployed to protect synagogues and Jewish sites around France, and both the president and the prime minister have strongly condemned the attacks.

"The best protection against these attacks is reflection by citizens - understanding that passions that flare up in the Middle East must not flare up here," Prime Minister Lionel Jospin told RTL radio.

Molotov cocktails were thrown through the windows of the Orthodox Community of Brussels synagogue
A synagogue in Brussels has also been targeted
"Even if we have the largest Jewish community in Europe and one of the largest Arab-Muslim communities on the European continent, we must not import this violence."

For his part, President Jacques Chirac has condemned the violence and vowed to "find and severely punish" the attackers.

On Monday he visited a synagogue in Le Havre as a sign of solidarity.

'Climate of hostility'

In Belgium, the increased tension in the Middle East has also been blamed for an attack on a synagogue in the Anderlecht district of Brussels.

"There really is a climate of hostility which is resulting in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being transposed into the most troubled districts of our capital," said local mayor Jacques Simonet.

Jewish leaders in France, however, have blamed politicians' complacency for the attacks, saying they have failed to react to what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitism.

Without decisive action, Jews would feel like they were "living through the warning signs of a fresh Kristallnacht," the Union of Jewish Communities in France said, referring to the night in 1938 when German mobs embarked on a rampage of anti-Semitic violence with the backing of Adolf Hitler's Nazi government.

The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"Some in the Jewish community are sure it was organised"
See also:

01 Apr 02 | Europe
French Jews demand protection
17 Apr 00 | Europe
France counts cost of Nazi era
16 Oct 00 | Europe
French Jews accuse North Africans
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: France
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