French police kill man trying to burn Rouen synagogue

Rouen synagogue fire
Damage inside the synagogue has been described as significant (Image: Benhamou Hillel/Rouen)

French police have killed a man after a synagogue was set on fire in the north-western city of Rouen.

The man was reportedly armed with a knife and an iron bar and when he went towards the police, an officer shot him.

Rouen Mayor Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol said the attack on the synagogue did not just affect the Jewish community, but the entire city was “battered and in shock”.

Police were called at around 06:45 (04:45 GMT) after smoke was seen rising from the synagogue, according to local reports.

Firefighters at the scene eventually brought the fire under control inside the synagogue. There appeared to be no victims other than the armed man, the mayor said.

Damage inside the synagogue has been described as significant. “I’m really upset, it’s catastrophic,” said the head of Rouen’s Jewish community, Natacha Ben Haïm.

She said a petrol bomb had been thrown through a small window, setting the synagogue alight. The walls and furniture had been left blackened by the fire, she added.

The local public prosecutor said two investigations were under way – into the arson attack on a place of worship and into the death of the man outside the building.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin praised police “for their responsiveness and courage “.

France, in common with the rest of Western Europe, has seen a surge in antisemitism since Hamas attacked southern Israel last October leading to the current war in Gaza.

Earlier this week a memorial in Paris that honours 3,900 men and women who helped rescue Jews during the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two was daubed with red-painted hands.

President Emmanuel Macron said defacing the wall undermined the memory of France’s heroes and its victims of the Holocaust.

France has the third largest Jewish community in the world, after Israel and the US.

The head of France’s Council of Jewish Institutions (Crif), Yonathan Arfi, said that “setting a synagogue on fire – that’s intending to intimidate every Jew”.

Another leading figure in the Jewish community, Elie Korchia, thanked police for their quick response to “a new antisemitic drama in our country”.

Rouen’s places of worship have come under attack in the past. Eight years ago a priest was fatally stabbed while leading a church service.

The latest violence comes days after gunmen shot dead two prison officers in an ambush at a motorway toll south of the city. Convicted prisoner Mohamed Amra escaped during the attack and his still on the run.

Map of Rouen

Source: bbc.co.uk

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