Shul guards threatened by gun gang

By Shirli Sitbon, June 19, 2014

Gunmen approached a Paris synagogue and aimed automatic weapons at police.

No shots were fired and the five men fled on motorcycles when the armed officers stood their ground.

The incident happened on Saturday in the suburb of Garges-lès-Gonesse. Witnesses said the men pointed a handgun and a Kalashnikov at them and pretended to shoot.

A 21-year-old man was arrested minutes after the men fled the scene in what was seen as a direct threat to the shul.

"Officially, they came to exhibit their weapons, but they could have done that anywhere. They specifically chose a synagogue," said Sammy Ghozlan, the head of the BNVCA, an antisemitism monitoring group.

"The incident was, in fact, a message to police: 'You can stand outside Jewish buildings as long as you want, this won't stop us. We're superior'."

Antisemitic attacks have multiplied in France since the Brussels Jewish museum shooting left four dead. Similar waves of racist violence followed previous terror attacks.

"After 9/11 in New York, after the abduction of Ilan Halimi, after the Toulouse shooting, people started saying they'll imitate the terrorists. Delinquents and even school thugs said: 'We'll do to you what Ilan got'," added Mr Ghozlan.

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said there are dozens of potential killers like Toulouse shooter Mohammed Merah. According to him, hundreds of French citizens have fought alongside jihadists in Syria.

Jihadi fighters are not the only ones threatening the Jewish community, however. "There isn't just one specific profile. The attackers are often young delinquents," said Mr Ghozlan. "What's very worrying is that to them, attacking Jews is a way of making 'tshuvah' - returning to the right path after years of delinquency. One imam told me that several men had asked him if they would go to heaven if they attack Jews."

Last updated: 4:37pm, June 19 2014