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Paris area synagogue hit by firebomb

The Ohr Menahem Community Center outside Paris was attacked with Molotov cocktails on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. The center houses a day care center for autistic children, a restaurant, and a synagogue.Remy De La Mauviniere / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two Molotov cocktails were hurled at a synagogue north of Paris, the latest attack in what France's interior minister said Monday is a new wave of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim attacks over the violence in Gaza. No injuries were reported.

President Nicolas Sarkozy met with religious leaders and reiterated the need to avoid "transposing" onto French soil a foreign conflict the country has been working to ease, his office said.

Firebombs broke a window and charred the walls of a pizzeria on the ground floor at Chabad House Ohr Manahem, in the town of Saint-Denis, said Isroeil Belinow, the synagogue's assistant rabbi. Belinow said police found 15 other unignited firebombs nearby.

Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said France has faced a "very clear increase" in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim attacks since Israel started an offensive against the militant group Hamas in Gaza on Dec. 27.

"We must do everything to stop the importation into our country of the situation that's taking place in the Middle East," Alliot-Marie told RTL Radio.

She declined to provide specific figures on the increase, though insisted police have been instructed to protect religious sites and places of worship.

France has Western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim populations, and Middle East tensions have in the past spilled over into vandalism or other incidents.

In the Chabad House attack, prayers had just finished and the rabbi was getting ready to go home Sunday night when he heard an explosion, Belinow said. Neighbors saw flames and called police.