French Police Shoot Man After Synagogue Arson Attack in Rouen

French Police Shoot Man After Synagogue Arson Attack in Rouen

Normandy - French police have shot and killed a man who attempted to set fire to a synagogue in Rouen, a city in north-western France. The incident occurred early Friday morning, around 06:45 local time (04:45 GMT), when police were called to the scene after smoke was seen rising from the synagogue.

The man, armed with a knife and an iron bar, was shot by an officer as he approached the police. Rouen Mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol expressed the city's collective shock and distress, stating that the attack on the synagogue affected the entire community.

Firefighters managed to control the blaze inside the synagogue, but significant damage was reported. Natacha Ben Haim, head of Rouen's Jewish community, described the scene as catastrophic, noting that a petrol bomb had been thrown through a small window, causing extensive fire damage to the walls and furniture.

Two investigations have been launched by the local public prosecutor: one into the arson attack and the other into the circumstances surrounding the man's death. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin commended the police for their prompt and courageous response.

France has experienced a surge in antisemitic incidents since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict in October. Earlier this week, a memorial in Paris honoring those who rescued Jews during World War Two was vandalized with red-painted hands, an act condemned by President Emmanuel Macron as an affront to the memory of Holocaust heroes and victims.

Elie Korchia, president of France's Consistoire Central Jewish worshippers’ body, and Yonathan Arfi, president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France (CRIF), both emphasized the broader implications of the attack, asserting that such acts aim to intimidate the Jewish community and foster a climate of fear.

Rouen has a history of attacks on places of worship; eight years ago, a priest was fatally stabbed during a church service. The latest violence adds to recent unrest, including the fatal shooting of two prison officers in an ambush near the city.

France, home to the third-largest Jewish community globally after Israel and the US, continues to grapple with rising antisemitism. Prime Minister Gabriel Attal recently reported a 300% increase in antisemitic acts in early 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

As investigations proceed, the city of Rouen and the broader French community remain vigilant against further antisemitic violence.

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