Published: 17:37, May 17, 2024
French police kill man who set fire to Rouen synagogue
By Reuters
Fire brigade members stand by a synagogue in the Normandy city of Rouen where French police have killed earlier an armed man who was trying to set fire to the building on May 17, 2024. (PHOTO / AFP)

PARIS — French police shot dead an armed man who set fire to a synagogue in the northwestern city of Rouen early on Friday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and local officials said.

Police, who were called to the site because of smoke coming out of the building, shot the man when he threw an iron bar at them and threatened them with a knife as he left the synagogue, a Rouen city official said.

The synagogue suffered significant damage, including to its furniture, but no one was harmed, Rouen mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol said, adding that the Normandy town was "battered and shocked"

The fire had been brought under control, the official said.

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The synagogue suffered significant damage, including to its furniture, but no one was harmed, Rouen mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol said, adding that the Normandy town was "battered and shocked".

"An armed man somehow climbed up the synagogue and threw an object, a sort of molotov cocktail, into the main praying room," Mayer-Rossignol told reporters.

The attacker's identity and motive were still unclear.

France, like many countries across Europe, has seen a huge spike in antisemitic acts since Hamas' Oct 7 deadly attack on Israel and Israel-Hamas conflict in response.

"It's once again an attempt to impose a climate of terror on the Jews of our country," Yonathan Arfi, president of the CRIF Jewish advocacy group, said on X.

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France hosts the Olympic Summer Games in just over two months and recently raised its alert status to the highest level against a complex geopolitical backdrop in the Middle East and Europe's eastern flank.

The synagogue was surrounded by a series of security cameras, Mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol said.

"Tonight is Shabbat and it is important to light the candles to show that we're not afraid, that we continue to practice Judaism despite the circumstances," Rouen's Rabbi Chmouel Lubecki, told BFM TV.