French Prime Minister Valls blasts Netanyahu for suggesting that Jews are unsafe in Europe.
Five adolescents aged 15 to 17 have been detained for questioning in eastern France over the vandalism of Jewish graves, a local prosecutor said on Monday.
All five are from the region of Sarre-Union in Alsace, where around 300 tombs were defaced and damaged on Thursday.
The youngest came forward after being shocked by the massive reaction across the country to the vandalism, prosecutor Philippe Vannier said.
“Apparently, he was very very affected by the scale of the reaction to this affair, including the statements from the highest state authorities,” Vannier told reporters.
The boy, who was encouraged to hand himself in by one of his friends, has denied any anti-Semitic motive, Vannier added.
“We don’t know the motives of these adolescents who don’t have past criminal records and we don’t know of any ideological convictions that could explain their behavior.
“They are very very shocked by the turn of events.”
The five boys pushed over tombstones in the cemetery and opened up vaults. A monument to the victims of the Holocaust at the entrance was also vandalized.
The incident was condemned by the government, with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve calling it “a despicable act” on Sunday, while Prime Minister Manuel Valls described it as “anti-Semitic and ignoble” on Twitter.
It is not the first time that a Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union has been targeted.
In 1988, around 60 Jewish steles were knocked over, and 54 tombs were wrecked in 2001.
News of the latest incident comes just over a month after an Islamist gunman shot dead four Jews in a kosher supermarket siege in Paris and less than 24 hours after a fatal shooting at a synagogue in Copenhagen.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday urged France’s Jews to stay in the country after a fresh call by the Israeli premier for European Jews to emigrate to Israel.
“My message to French Jews is the following: France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave,” Valls said.
His comments came after two people were killed in shootings in Copenhagen at the weekend that targeted a cultural center and a synagogue, in a strike that may have been inspired by last month’s Paris attacks.
Those attacks left 17 people dead, including four men who were taken hostage by an Islamist gunman at a kosher supermarket.
France’s interior minister also said Sunday that several hundred tombs had been defaced at a Jewish cemetery in the east of the country in what he called a “despicable act.”
In a radio interview after Valls’ comments, former foreign minister Roland Dumas was asked whether the prime minister was “under Jewish influence.”
“Probably, he has personal relations that cause him to be biased. Everyone knows that he is married to someone, a respected person, by the way, who has influence over him.” This was an apparent reference to Valls’ Jewish wife, Anne Gravoin.
“The place for French Jews is France,” stressed Valls.
“To combat Islamo-fascism, for that is what it should be called, our strength must come from unity,” he said.
France is home to Europe’s largest Jewish population and also the continent’s largest Muslim population, although it is difficult to give precise figures as the French state is officially secular and does not collect data based on religion.
Last month, the country’s main Jewish group said the number of anti-Semitic acts doubled in France during 2014, with acts involving physical violence leading the increase.
Some 851 anti-Semitic acts were registered in 2014, compared with 423 the previous year, with acts of physical violence jumping to 241 from 105, the CRIF said.
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