A suspected arson attack that burnt down a French kosher grocery store near Paris on Tuesday has revived anti-Semitism fears in France, three years to the day since a deadly assault on a Jewish supermarket by a jihadist gunman.
A suspected arson attack on a French kosher grocery store has revived anti-Semitism fears.
The incident took place in Créteil to the south east of Paris in France's Val-de-Marne department.
The fire at the store Promo & Destock in Mont-Mesly in Créteil was signaled to the authorities at around 5am on Tuesday morning.
One or more of the individuals involved in the incident smashed the window pane before setting the store on fire.
The store was completely gutted in the fire, with the shelves along the aisles — where the fire is believed to have been started — blackened and charred, an AFP reporter said.
"There is a lot of damage," Créteil's prosecutor Laure Beccuau told AFP, adding that investigators do not believe the fire was accidental.
On January 3rd two Jewish stores in the area including the one set on fire on Tuesday were tagged with five swastikas. The second store was also slightly damaged in the fire.
"Some want to create controversy, or import the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said the manager of the store last week.
The kosher store in Paris where the January 2015 terror attack took place. Photo: AFP
"I see different communities living alongside one another very well in Créteil. I am a Muslim myself and I have been selling kosher here for almost ten years," he added.
Creteil counts some 23,000 Jews among its 90,000 residents, according to community leader Albert Elharrar who said Jewish groups believe the shops were deliberately targeted at the time of commemorations for the 2015 attacks.
"There's a link between the graffiti and the fire," he told AFP. "It's clear that they came for no other reason but to attack a kosher shop on the day of the commemorations."
That attack came two days after Said and Cherif Kouachi — close friends of Coulibaly's — gunned down 11 people at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the first of a wave of jihadist attacks in France over the past three years.
Israel's ambassador to France Aliza Bin Noun called the fire a "shameful provocation" on the third anniversary of attack.
The 2015 attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket triggered deep concern among France's large Jewish community over growing anti-Semitism.
In 2017, a Jewish woman was pushed to her death from a third-floor window by a Muslim neighbour, while a Jewish family was beaten, held hostage and robbed in what rights groups said was a hate crime.
Former prime minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday that more needed to be done to tackle anti-Semitism, which he said had become "deeply rooted" in France.
"What has changed over the past three years is the awareness of this level of anti-Semitism," he said.
Valls added that French society as a whole had failed to mobilise in support of Jews following anti-Semitic attacks such as the 2012 Islamist shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse in which four people were killed, including three children.
"These are crimes that must be prosecuted and condemned, we need to do more," he said.
Abdelkader Merah, the brother of the jihadist who carried out the school attack, was handed a 20-year jail sentence in November in a trial that reopened wounds for French Jews.
He was convicted of encouraging his brother Mohamed to carry out a shooting spree targeting Jews and French soldiers, though he was cleared of having a direct role in the attacks.