Tunisia: Synagogue firebombed amid nationwide protests

Some unknown assailants attacked Tuesday night a Jewish synagogue on the island of Djerba as the country grapples with protests denouncing austerity policies initiated by the Government.

“There was a failed attempt to burn down the synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Djerba through the use of Molotov cocktails, but thank God, no one was hurt and security and civil protection are now doing their duty,” Elie Trabelsi, the son of the synagogue’s president, Pérez Trabelsi, wrote on Facebook.

The attack according to security authorities made no damage to the temple. The fire was contained within a small portion of the site, security sources said.

The Ghriba synagogue is believed to have been built in 586 BCE by Jews fleeing the destruction of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, according to Times of Israel.

The temple has been a tourist destination for Jews with Tunisian roots but visits to the religious site has significantly dwindled since 2002 terror attacks masterminded by al-Qaeda, that killed 21 people.

Tunisia is one of Arab countries with an important Jewish population. Some 1,500 Jews live in the North African country today against an estimated 100,000 before Tunisia became independent in 1956.
The North African country is facing demonstrations nationwide over rising commodity price and new taxes imposed on January 1, as part austerity measure taken by the state as required by lenders.

Around 20 cities have been engulfed in the demonstrations, leading to the arrest of 200 people. According to the Interior Minister, 50 police agents have been wounded in clashes with protesters.

“Last night criminals looted and burned security centers, 45 police cars were torched and some government offices were attacked,” the interior minister told Reuters. “They blocked roads and carried out robberies in many cities … Obviously, these are not protests, but theft and damage to public and private property,” he said.

The protests however have not hit the resort island of Djerba.

Security authorities say the attackers took advantage of weak security presence at the prayer site.

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