Protesters decrying Israel’s military operation in Gaza tried to storm a synagogue in Paris on Sunday, trapping some 200 worshipers inside.
One Jewish leader compared the experience to Kristallnacht, while an eyewitness likened it to an “intifada” Palestinian uprising against Israel.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency news service reported that three Jews were taken to the hospital following the clashes, which erupted at the end of an anti-Israel march in which thousands had participated.
A protester wearing a keffiyeh and wrapped in a Palestinian flag raises his fist during an anti-Israel demonstration in Paris, July 13, 2014. A six-day conflict between Israel and Gaza has left at least 166 Palestinians dead. Clashes erupted on Bastille Square at the end of the march attended by thousands, with people throwing objects onto a cordon of police, who responded with tear gas. The unrest was continuing early in the evening. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)
The protesters approached the synagogue and began throwing rocks and other objects at the house of worship and fighting with unarmed volunteer security guards outside.
“The attackers splintered off an anti-Israel demonstration and advanced toward the synagogue when it was full,” journalist Alain Azria told JTA.
There were also five police officers on duty at the synagogue, Azria said, but it wasn’t enough to thwart the protesters, who were throwing projectiles and chanting anti-Semitic slogans.
“They were determined to enter and the police did not have enough forces,” Azria said.
When protesters threw objects at French police guarding the demonstration, police responded with tear gas. This video of the violent demonstration was posted online:
The protests continued for hours, and Jewish congregants weren’t able to leave until around 9 p.m. when riot police were finally able to disperse the crowd, the Times of Israel reported.
The Times of Israel quoted French media reports that said that additional police units were sent to rescue the Jews trapped inside.
One of the worshipers told Israel’s Channel 2 news that protesters threw stones and bricks at the building “like it was an intifada,” referring to the Palestinian uprising against Israel.
A protester wearing a gas mask and a keffiyeh gestures while holding a fake rocket with the Israeli flag, swastikas and a nuclear symbol, July 13, 2014 in Paris, during a demonstration against Israel and in support of residents in the Gaza Strip. (Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators holding banners and chanting anti-Israeli slogans walk in Paris, Sunday, July 13, 2014, to protest against the Israeli army's bombings in the Gaza strip. Banner reads: "Total Support to Palestinian Resistance." About 10,000 pro-Palestinian protesters marched through eastern Paris on Sunday demanding an end to Israeli strikes on Gaza, and accusing Western leaders of not doing enough to stop them. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)
Police said that six protesters were arrested.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned the attack on the synagogue, saying in a statement: “Such acts targeting places of worship are unacceptable."
“I am profoundly shocked and revolted. This aggression towards the Jewish community has taken an absolutely unacceptable turn,” Joel Mergei, president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France, told Agence France-Presse.
Paris Jewish community leader Serge Ben Haim told Israel’s Army Radio, “We could have had something like Kristallnacht,” referring to the 1938 “night of broken glass” during which security forces and civilians in Nazi Germany attacked Jews, their homes, synagogues and stores.
“The Palestinians had rocks, glass, axes, knives,” Ben Haim said. “They were armed, and I made sure that no one would leave the synagogue in order to protect the lives of our people.”
“We skirted a true catastrophe yesterday. Today is not yesterday. We must analyze what happened – there are some very red lights going on lately,” Ben Haim said Monday morning.
Protester Amid Hamadouch wore a sticker that said, “Boycott Israel, Racist State.”
“I came to say no to this massacre,” he told AFP. “They are bombing innocent people. There are missiles being launched by Hamas, but the Israeli response is disproportionate. They are attacking the civilian population and not Hamas officials.”