French police hunt an assailant who attacked a man leaving a Paris synagogue

French soldiers of France's anti-terror 'Vigipirate' plan, dubbed 'Operation Sentinelle' patrol in Paris, Sunday, March 3, 2024. French authorities are searching for an assailant who attacked a man near a synagogue in Paris, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said late Saturday. (AP Photo/Nicholas Garriga) (Christophe Ena, Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

PARIS – French authorities were searching for an assailant who attacked a man leaving a synagogue in Paris, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin said late Saturday that the alleged attack on Friday evening targeting a man in his early 60s was “a new antisemitic attack that occurred in Paris." “Everything is being done to apprehend the perpetrator of this unspeakable act,” Darmanin said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, Saturday evening.

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A statement from the Paris public prosecutor's office said an assailant was seen physically and verbally assaulting a 62-year-old man, wearing a Jewish skullcap, as he was leaving a synagogue Friday at around 5:30 p.m. local time in Paris’s 20th arrondissement.

A witness saw an assailant hit the victim, who fell on the ground and briefly lost consciousness, the prosecutor's office said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. A witness reported to the police that the assailant shouted an ethnic slur at the man under attack.

The victim was transported to a hospital for treatment, the statement said, adding that the perpetrator fled on foot.

The attack came hours after Darmanin said he had ordered police prefectures around the country to “immediately strengthen protections” of Jewish communities, particularly around schools and places of worship.

Darmanin said in a post on X that heightened surveillance around places, frequented by “our Jewish compatriots” are aimed to prevent them being targeted because of the “ unfolding tragedies in the Middle East.

A sharp rise in antisemitic acts in France has been reported in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Data from the Interior Ministry and the Jewish Community Protection Service watchdog showed that 1,676 antisemitic acts were reported in 2023, compared to 436 the previous year.

The number of such attacks is on the rise across Europe. In Switzerland, a teenager was arrested on suspicion of stabbing and critically wounding an Orthodox Jewish man on the streets of Zurich, police said Sunday.

In a statement, they said they suspect antisemitism as the motive.

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