France sees 'unprecedented' rise in anti-Semitic attacks

Jewish organisations said Wednesday that France saw an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitic attacks last year, fuelled in part by extremist gunman Mohamed Merah's attack on a Jewish school.

In a report to the government, France's SPCJ Jewish security watchdog said the number of anti-Semitic incidents was up 58 percent last year, with 177 violent acts and 437 threats.

It said 2012 was "a year of unprecedented violence against Jews in France" that saw the community "the target of two attacks in less than six months" with the Merah killings in March and the throwing of a grenade into a kosher grocery near Paris in September, which left one person with light injuries.

The head of France's CRIF Jewish representative group, Richard Prasquier, said the increase in incidents "damages the image of France".

"In the last 13 years the number of anti-Semitic acts has exploded. French citizens, because they are Jewish, must be protected when they study, gather or pray," he said in a statement.

The SPCJ said the number of incidents rose after Merah's shooting spree, which saw him gun down a rabbi, three Jewish schoolchildren and three French paratroopers before being shot dead in a police siege in Toulouse, and after the attack on the kosher grocery in Sarcelles.

"Far from raising awareness, the attacks in Toulouse and Sarcelles were followed by a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic attacks," it said, noting that some offenders appeared to draw inspiration from the attacks.