French Jews' fears 'intolerable' - Francois Hollande

A man wears a kippa as he takes part in a silent march to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms on November 9, 2013 in Berlin, Germany Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A Jewish leader in Marseille urged men to abandon their skullcaps for fear of attacks

Francois Hollande has called the idea French Jews would hide their religion out of fear "intolerable", after an anti-Semitic attack in Marseille.

The French president's comments come after a Jewish leader in the city urged men to stop wearing their skullcaps or other religious symbols.

The victim of the attack, a Jewish teacher, was stabbed by a boy who pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Jews were targeted in January last year during the Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks.

Mr Hollande said: "It is intolerable that in our country citizens should feel so upset and under assault because of their religious choice that they would conclude that they have to hide."

But Zvi Ammar, head of Marseille's Israelite Consistory, said the "exceptional measure" was needed.

Speaking to La Provence newspaper (in French), Mr Ammar called on Jews "not to wear the kippa [skullcap] in the street to avoid being identified as Jewish".

"It is sad to find ourselves in this position in 2016, in a great democratic country like France," he said.

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Monday's machete attack left the teacher, Benjamin Amsellem, 35, who was wearing a skullcap at the time, with an injured shoulder and hand.

The teenage assailant was charged on Wednesday evening with "attempted assassination linked to a terrorist organization", authorities said.

The youth, described as a self-radicalised ethnic Kurd from Turkey, reportedly told police he was "ashamed" he did not manage to kill Mr Amsellem.

It was the third such attack on Jews in recent months in Marseille, which has the third-largest urban population of Jews in Europe after Paris and London

  • Three Jews were assaulted in the city in October, one with a knife near a synagogue, by a drunken assailant, AFP news agency reports

A 15-year-old Turkish Kurd was arrested after attacking Mr Amsellem, 35, in a Marseille street in broad daylight.

Jewish men often wear a skullcap, also known in Hebrew as a kippa or in Yiddish as a yarmulke, as an outward sign of their religion.

The latest stabbing in Marseille came just days after France held memorial events for those killed in the Paris attacks last January.

Four Jewish shoppers were killed by an IS supporter at a kosher supermarket, shortly after the deadly assault on the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Since then, more than 700 synagogues, Jewish schools and community centres have been protected by police or soldiers.

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