France faces 'new form of anti-Semitism', says PM
More demonstrations planned after anti-Jewish violence mars Gaza protests
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, has said his country faces "a new form of anti-Semitism" after violence marred two rallies against Israeli intervention in Gaza.
Riot police clashed with pro-Gaza demonstrators on Sunday when a peaceful rally "took a distinctly anti-Semitic turn" in Paris's predominantly Jewish district of Sarcelles, the New York Times reports.
Eighteen people were arrested as youths went on the rampage lighting smoke bombs, starting fires and looting stores in the northern suburb often referred to as "little Jerusalem". Several Jewish-owned businesses and a synagogue were targeted in the attacks, the BBC reports.
With further demonstrations planned for Wednesday and Saturday, government officials are "fearful" of violence spreading to other multi-racial French suburbs, the Independent says.
France has the largest Jewish and Muslim populations in Europe and flare-ups of violence in the Middle East often add to tensions between the two communities, Reuters says.
"It's simply unacceptable to target synagogues or shops because they are managed by Jews," the French interior minister said. "Nothing can justify anti-Semitism and nothing can justify this kind of violence. It cannot be sanctioned and it will be fought."
Sunday's riot in Sarcelles came less than 24 hours after similar scenes broke-out at a pro-Palestinian rally in Barbès.
And earlier this month several hundred protesters sought to storm two synagogues in the French capital during an anti-Israel demonstration in which protesters chanted, "Death to Jews!" and "Hitler was right".
The French PM condemned the anti-Semitic sentiment "spreading on the internet, on social media, in our working-class areas, among young people who are often directionless, who have no awareness of history, who hide their hatred of the Jews behind a mask of anti-Zionism and behind the hatred of the Israeli state".
In the first three months of 2014, more Jews have left France for Israel than at any other time since 1948. While France's stagnating economy may be partly responsible, Reuters says that rising anti-Semitism may also be factor.