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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
French Jews call protest after attacks
Two burnt out buses belonging to a Jewish school
A car was also damaged in the bus attack
French Jewish groups have called for a mass demonstration against anti-Semitic violence in response to the latest attacks against the Jewish community.

It was probably an act by young delinquents - visibly there was no preparation

Daniel Constantin
Montpellier prefect
On Thursday morning, molotov cocktails were thrown into a building which houses a synagogue in the city of Montpellier, just hours after two Jewish school buses were found burnt out in the northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers.

Officials believe the string of incidents in recent days, including four attacks on synagogues, is linked to Israel's offensive in the Middle East

Sunday's demonstration, called by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions, is also due to express support for Israel, whose most recent actions in the Palestinian territories have prompted international dismay.

The killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli army is widely believed to have stoked hostility towards Jews among France's four million-strong Muslim population.

Correspondents say there was heated debate within the community whether to make support of Israel a part of Sunday's demonstration, as some Jews feel it will alienate those who condemn anti-Semitism but also Israel's current behaviour.

Foreign tensions

The attacks started last weekend, during which a synagogue in Marseille was burnt to the ground, and two others damaged in separate fires.

Montpellier synagogue
The assailants missed their target in Montpellier
On Tuesday, a Jewish prayer house in the city of Strasbourg was partially destroyed when unknown assailants set fire to its wooden doors.

The attacks have been condemned by France's political leaders, but senior Jews have accused them of failing to curb what they see as a growing tide of anti-Semitism which has increased with Israeli aggression.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has urged people not to allow the kind of tensions between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East to be replicated in France, home to some 700,000 Jews and four million Muslims.

French Jewish leaders like Moishe Cohen have spoken of a concerted "plan" to strike at the heart of the French Jewish community.

But local authorities said Thursday's attack in Montpellier appeared to be the work of unorganised amateurs.

"It was probably an act by young delinquents," said Prefect Daniel Constantin. "Visibly there was no preparation."

See also:

03 Apr 02 | Europe
French Jews fear more violence
01 Apr 02 | Europe
French Jews demand protection
16 Oct 00 | Europe
French Jews accuse North Africans
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