Arsonists attack French synagogue with petrol bombs

Two cars packed with petrol bombs were launched at the doors of a Toulouse synagogue in an attack described by French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie as "stupid and revolting". No one was hurt in the attack.


REUTERS - French officials condemned a petrol bomb attack on a synagogue in the southern city of Toulouse on Monday night, which triggered fears that anger over Israel's offensive in Gaza could spill over into violence in France.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie described the action, in which two cars packed with petrol bombs were launched at the doors of the synagogue, as "particularly stupid and revolting".

"What I want to avoid above all is that a worrying international situation should be transposed onto our national territory," she said.

No one was hurt in the attack, which took place as about a dozen people were attending a class with a rabbi, but it underlined fears of a repeat of attacks against Jewish people and property in France after past Israeli offensives.

Clashes between police and pro-Palestinian demonstrators at a rally in Paris on Saturday had already raised the spectre of the riots in the run-down "banlieues" that shook France in 2005.

More than a dozen cars were overturned and several others were torched as mainly younger demonstrators took on riot police and firefighters in the streets near some of the biggest department stores in the French capital.

France is home to Europe's largest Muslim community but many young people from North African immigrant families still complain of discrimination. There have been concern that broader social frustrations could be fuelled by the crisis in Gaza.

"I am extremely worried about the way in which some people want to encourage a part of the population or young people in particular to replay in France conflicts that are taking place thousands of kilometres away," Dominique Sopo, president of the SOS Racism association told France Info radio.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy completed a visit to the region on Tuesday in a bid to encourage a ceasefire between Israel and the militant Hamas group.

But despite his condemnation of Israel's land offensive in Gaza, he remains deeply unpopular with many young people of Arab origin for his perceived hardline stance as interior minister before he became president.

Many of the demonstrators on Saturday chanted "Sarko accomplice" as they denounced the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

"Vigilance at all levels is pretty much the government's attitude on this," government spokesman Luc Chatel said on LCI Television on Tuesday.


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