Germany slams ‘anti-Semitic’ demos and Hamas ‘terrorist attacks’
Germany on Friday said rockets fired by Hamas at Israel amounted to “terrorist attacks” and condemned “anti-Semitic” demonstrations on its own soil as the conflict intensified in the Middle East.
“These are terrorist attacks that have only one goal: to kill people indiscriminately and arbitrarily and to spread fear,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert told a government press conference.
Merkel’s government defended “Israel’s right to self-defence against these attacks”, he added.
Palestinian militants have launched more than 1,800 rockets since Monday, according to Israel’s army, which has launched hundreds of air strikes on Hamas and other Islamist groups in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza.
The most intense hostilities in seven years were triggered by weekend unrest at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
Germany has seen scattered demonstrations this week over the escalating conflict, with protesters shouting anti-Semitic slogans and burning Israeli flags.
Sixteen people were arrested on Tuesday after flags were burned in front of a synagogue in Muenster and the entrance to a synagogue in Bonn was damaged by stones.
On Wednesday evening, around 180 people shouted anti-Jewish slogans in the western city of Gelsenkirchen and were prevented from marching to a synagogue by police.
On Thursday around 1,500 people gathered in the northern city of Bremen calling for “freedom for Palestine” in a protest which proceeded without incident, according to local police.
Police said Friday they are investigating after an Israeli flag outside Duesseldorf town hall was damaged by fire.
Seibert said Germany would not tolerate “anti-Semitic” demonstrations.
“Anyone who attacks a synagogue or defiles Jewish symbols shows that for them it is not about criticising a state or the policies of a government, but about aggression and hate towards a religion and the people who belong to it,” he said.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had on Thursday also condemned the protests.
“Those who burn Star of David flags in our streets and shout anti-Semitic slogans not only abuse the freedom to demonstrate, but are committing crimes,” he told the popular Bild daily.
“Nothing justifies threats against Jews in Germany or attacks on synagogues in German towns,” he said.
Several pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been registered to take place in the capital Berlin on Saturday.