Europe

Jewish schools tense after Paris attacks

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Media captionLucy Williamson reports from a school coming to terms with increased security

After attacks left 17 people dead, the French government is deploying thousands of security personnel to key sites. The BBC's Lucy Williamson went to visit a Jewish school in Paris with armed soldiers at the gate.

The men in camouflage eye us warily as we approach the Lucien De Hirsch school in northern Paris, their rifles held tight across their rigid frames.

Behind them, through the classroom windows, children wave excitedly, their faces jumbled against the glass.

This is how France is keeping its schoolchildren safe, in the aftermath of attacks that have horrified the nation.

After three days of violence by Islamist gunmen, the French government announced that 10,000 police and military personnel would be moved into place around key sites - half of them around Jewish schools and religious centres.

Image copyright AFP/getty
Image caption Security has also been tightened in Jewish neighbourhoods
Image copyright AP
Image caption It is the first time troops have been deployed within France on such a scale

Inside, the headmaster, Paul Fitoussi, proudly tells us his is the oldest Jewish school in Europe.

"We've faced threats before," he says, "but we've never had soldiers sleeping inside the school at night".

"We need the police, and the army," he told me, "because we're facing terrorism - it's not a joke, not like in a film. We're very anxious about this situation - I'm the director of a school; I'm not James Bond."

Mr Fitoussi leads a school of more than 1,000 pupils, some as young as two years old.

Explaining the nature of the current crisis is not easy, he says, but the children do ask, and it is right that they should know.

'First strike'

In Paris's main Jewish area - the Marais - on Monday morning, the security was even tighter.

France's Interior Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, had come to visit, and to talk to local residents.

Amid all the questions of how last week's attacks could have happened, there are worries that they may not be the last.

Image copyright AFP/getty
Image caption Some experts are worried that the shootings in Paris may be replicated elsewhere in Europe

Former counter-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, told the BBC that monitoring terrorism suspects often requires a complex legal process, and warned that there may be other plots in place.

"The problem for me is not just France," he said. "I'm quite concerned about another attack elsewhere in Europe, and maybe the UK. France's problem may be the first strike."

Four hostages died in the siege at a Jewish supermarket in Porte de Vincennes last week.

Their bodies have been flown to Israel for burial.

Reports suggest that a growing number of French Jews are considering leaving France, but Prime Minister Manuel Valls has urged them to stay, saying France without its Jewish citizens "would not be France".