The worst fears of France’s already tense Jewish community came to be on Friday when an assailant believed to have killed a policewoman the day before took hostages at a Kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.
The suspect was killed when police stormed the market and several hostages were reportedly freed, but the fate of others remains unclear. Prime Minister Manuel Valls told reporters earlier that the suspect, believed to be Amedy Coulibaly, 32, had ties to the gunmen in the terror strike on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, who were killed in a separate police operation on Thursday.
The assault on the Kosher supermarket shook the Jewish community in France and abroad. As dual hostage situations unfolded, police ordered the closure of all shops in the tourist-filled Jewish neighborhood in central Paris, far from the supermarket under siege in the city’s east, according to the Associated Press. And ahead of the Sabbath Friday evening, the iconic Grand Synagogue of Paris was closed, USA Today reported.
The Jewish community in France, numbering more than 400,000, had already been on guard after an uptick in anti-Semitic violence in recent years, including the shooting of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in May 2014, allegedly by a French Muslim man. After the attack on Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, Jewish institutions were on maximum alert, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported. Volunteers joined police deployed by the French authorities to secure schools and religious sites.
“We are past red alert at this stage, it’s all hands on deck because, sadly, the question is not whether the French Jewish community will be targeted, but when,” Chlomik Zenouda, vice-president of the National Bureau for Vigilance against anti-Semitism, told JTA before the assault on the supermarket.
When an attack materialized, on the Kosher supermarket in the Porte de Vincennes, condemnation of the assault and expressions of support flowed in from the Jewish community around the world. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted in solidarity:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered assistance to French authorities and convened a teleconference with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his security staff, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“The terror attack that has gone on for three days now is not just against the French nation, or against the Jews of France, but is aimed at the entire free world,” Lieberman said, the Jerusalem Post reported. “This is another attempt by the forces of darkness emanating from extreme Islam to sow fear and terror against the West, and the entire international community must stand like a wall and with determination against this terrorism.”
In a statement, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League “expressed deep concern” over the attack. “Islamic extremism is a common enemy of Jews and democratic states. That message needs to be heard and internalized by governments and mainstream society,” the ADL said.