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Anti-Semitic Attacks on Rise in France

Europe: Jewish leaders fear bombing and arson assaults on synagogues are a spillover from Mideast upheaval. Chirac condemns the 'acts of intolerance.'


PARIS — The anger fueling violence in the Middle East appears to have spread to France, where authorities Wednesday reported bombing and arson attacks against five synagogues.

No injuries were reported or arrests made, but French President Jacques Chirac was sufficiently concerned about a possible confrontation between his nation's large Jewish and Muslim communities to issue a statement denouncing the destructive "acts of intolerance."

In the latest attack, a house of worship used by a 40-member Jewish community of the Paris suburb of Trappes was partially destroyed by a fire Tuesday night, officials said.

"The damage is very important, and there is no doubt about the criminal origin," first deputy prosecutor Jacques Hossaert said after touring the site. Police said the blaze, which took firefighters two hours to bring under control, destroyed the synagogue's roof.

Also Tuesday evening, two Molotov cocktails were thrown into a synagogue in Les Ulis, another suburb of the French capital. Sunday evening, two gasoline bombs were hurled at a synagogue in Creil, about 30 miles north of Paris. In both cases, damage was minor.

Police reported that similar attacks have taken place against synagogues in the Strasbourg area and northeastern Paris since Middle East violence reignited Sept. 28.

This week, authorities in two Paris suburbs, Puteaux and Suresnes, also reported an outbreak of anti-Semitic graffiti that included the statements "Death to the Jews" and "Long Live Palestine." A synagogue and a prayer room in those suburbs were placed under police guard.

In his statement, Chirac condemned such manifestations of anti-Semitism as endangering "the values and the traditions of the French republic."

Chirac met Sunday with national Jewish leaders, who expressed concern about the possibility of clashes with French Muslims over the violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Chirac's own role in last week's failed peace talks here is disputed, with Israeli officials claiming he sided with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and caused the negotiations to collapse. Chirac's entourage has called those accusations ridiculous.

Meanwhile, according to police in Belgium, about 200 vandals went on a destructive rampage Tuesday night in Brussels on the fringes of a demonstration called to denounce Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Police reported the windows of about 60 cars and 30 businesses smashed in a downtown district of the Belgian capital. Eight people, including six minors, were arrested.

The organizers of the protest--Pierre Galand, president of the Belgian-Palestinian Assn., and Chawki Armali, chief envoy in Brussels of the Palestinian Authority--issued a statement condemning the Tuesday night destruction as "criminal acts by uncontrolled elements."

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