Germany will tolerate no attacks against “people of Jewish faith” on its territory over the events unfolding in the Middle East, Berlin has said following attacks on synagogues amid the ongoing standoff between Tel Aviv and Gaza.
“We do not want to and will not tolerate the hatred of Jews – regardless by whom – in our country,” German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild on Thursday, commenting on a series of attacks targeting synagogues in several German cities.
“Nothing justifies the threat to Jews in Germany or attacks on synagogues in German cities,” the president said. Earlier this week, Germany saw a string of attacks on the Jewish prayer houses that sparked outrage among Jews, Christians and German officials.
On Tuesday evening, an Israeli flag was burned in front of a synagogue in the western German city of Munster. In another western city, Bonn, an entrance to a synagogue was pelted by stones. The police arrested suspected perpetrators in both cases. Some of those detained told the police their actions were provoked by the “current conflict in Israel.”
In Dusseldorf, unidentified individuals lit a fire on a memorial stone marking a place where a synagogue was once built. Steinmeier believes those behind the attack seek to mask their hatred and anti-Semitism behind a right to protest.
Anyone who burns flags with the Star of David on our streets and shouts anti-Semitic slogans is not only abusing the freedom to demonstrate, but also committing crimes that must be prosecuted.
The German government also slammed the attacks, adding that they have nothing to do with a legitimate right to protest.
“Anyone who protests in front of a synagogue, who attacks a synagogue, who damages Jewish symbols, shows that he is interested not in criticizing a state or the politics of a government, but in aggression and hatred against a religion and against those who belong to it. And we oppose this with all the might of our democratic constitutional state,” a government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told a press conference on Friday.
He also said that Chancellor Angela Merkel condemns the rocket attacks launched by the Palestinian Hamas militants against Israel. “There is no justification for this violence. Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks,” he said.
German Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht called the attacks on synagogues “a disgrace”, adding that “perpetrators must be identified and held accountable.” Earlier, Israeli ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff called on Berlin to act. He said that Tel Aviv is very concerned about the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, adding that the conflict in the Middle East has nothing to do with the local Jewish communities.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “there can be zero tolerance for attacks on synagogues in our country,” adding that the authorities “must guarantee the security of the synagogues without any ifs or buts.”
He also called on both sides to immediately cease hostilities and come to a “two-state solution” through negotiations. The minister also rejected the idea of imposing sanctions against any side. “In such a situation, punishments don’t help,” he said.
Maas also laid the blame for the ongoing escalation on the Palestinian Hamas militants by saying that “the most recent escalation was deliberately brought about” by the group.
The developments came amid an ongoing violent standoff between Israel and the Palestinian militants in Gaza. The conflict was sparked by tensions in East Jerusalem over an Israeli court’s decision to evict several Palestinian families from a neighborhood close to the Old City.
The tensions first spiraled into a wave of Arab-Israeli street violence and rioting in several cities with mixed Arab-Israeli populations, including Jerusalem. It was followed by a massive rocket attack launched by Hamas. Around 2,000 rockets have been launched from Gaza into southern and central Israel since Monday, the Israel Defense Forces said.
Some of the rockets were destroyed by the Israeli Iron Dome air defense system but others hit various Israeli areas and claimed the lives of nine people, according to local media reports. Israel responded by launching a massive airstrike against Gaza that resulted in the deaths of at least 119 Palestinians, including 27 children, according to local health officials.
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