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France - Middle East

French minister slams acts of anti-Semitism during pro-Gaza protests

Police block a street entrane in Sarcelles, a Paris suburb after a pro-Gaza rally turned violent.
Police block a street entrane in Sarcelles, a Paris suburb after a pro-Gaza rally turned violent. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

France’s interior minister has denounced Sunday's demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles as an "intolerable act of anti-Semitism" after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive degenerated into violence.

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“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a grocery shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,” interior minister Bernard Cazaneuve told reporters in Sarcelles on Monday.

Sunday’s demonstration was the third to turn violent in a week amid a government ban to quell concern that the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last week tried to enter two synagogues.

Known as “little Jerusalem” for its large Sephardic Jewish community, Sarcelles became a scene of looting and rioting on Sunday night as police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The rally turned as dozens of youth – some of them masked – set alight bins, firecrackers and smoke bombs as they burned and pillaged Jewish-owned shops and tried to attack two synagogues.

Cazeneuve said it was “intolerable for synagogues or stores to be targeted just because they are run by Jews. Nothing can justify such violence.”

He added that it was not the ban that was causing violence, but rather that such acts precipitated it.

However, opposition politicians said that the government was “inviting” the violence by preventing the marches.

Sunday’s riot came one day after a rally Saturday in the northern 18th arrondissement in Paris, which started peacefully but turned violent.

Rallies authorised elsewhere in the country and in cities across Europe were largely peaceful with few incidents reported.

Cazeneuve will now have to decide whether to ban further protests scheduled for this week as the weekend’s events cast doubt whether a ban will prevent further acts of violence.

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