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TERRORISM

Anti-Semitism ‘massive problem’ in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary

On the second anniversary of a far-right terror attack at a German synagogue, the German Jewish Council has warned that the government needs to make more efforts to stop the spread of anti-Semitism online.

Anti-Semitism 'massive problem' in Germany, says Jewish leader on terror attack anniversary
A star of David on the roof of the Halle synagogue. Photo: dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

Two years after a terrorist attack in the east German town of Halle that left two people dead, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews, said that more needed to be done in the fight against anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism.

“The spread and incitement of hate, for example in the form of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories via social media, is a massive problem,” Schuster told DPA.

On October 9th 2019, a heavily armed right-wing extremist called Stephan Balliet tried to enter the Halle city synagogue on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

When he failed to do so, he shot a 40-year-old passerby. He later killed a 20-year-old man at a kebab shop. While trying to escape, the 28-year-old injured several people before he was caught by the police.

The city of Halle is commemorating the event on Saturday, with wreaths to be laid at the scene of the crime. Reiner Haseloff, state leader of Saxony-Anhalt, is expected to attend.

Balliet was sentenced to life in prison in 2020 by the Naumburg Higher Regional Court. His sentence will be followed by preventive detention.

Funs for synagogue security

While praising the German government for introducing a law that makes social media companies responsible for hateful content posted on their sites, Schuster said that the legislation needed to be extended to messenger services such as Telegram.

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the internet is not a lawless space,” he said.

According to Schuster, the German government reacted quickly after the Halle attack by providing money to improve security at Jewish institutions.

This was an important step, he said. “However, there is still much to be done at the political and social level to combat growing anti-Semitism.”

SEE ALSO: Four held over foiled ‘Islamist’ attack on German synagogue

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ISRAEL

Germany bans three groups close to Hezbollah

The German government said Wednesday it is banning three groups close to Hezbollah, the Lebanese movement that opposes Israel, against the backdrop of the current military escalation in the Middle East.

Germany bans three groups close to Hezbollah
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer “has banned three groups that are financing the terrorist organisation Hezbollah,” his spokesman wrote in a tweet.

“Whoever supports terror will not be safe in Germany… They will find no refuge in our country.”

The interior ministry said that searches were currently under way in a number of different regional states in Germany.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Jews call for protection amid Israel-Palestinian clashes

According to German media reports, the operations had been carried in the states of Hamburg, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein.

Hezbollah is designated a terrorist group by Israel and much of the West.

Founded in the 1980s to fight Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, it has grown into Iran’s main regional proxy with operatives in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The only Lebanese faction to have kept its weapons after the 1975-90 civil war, Hezbollah now has a more powerful arsenal than the Lebanese national army.

Israel’s deadly Gaza offensive has many eyes trained on the Lebanese border for a Hezbollah reaction, but observers argue the Iran-backed movement is unlikely to risk an all-out conflict.

Incidents at the border in recent days have raised the temperature but, with Lebanon already on its knees amid a deep political and economic crisis, the Shiite group seems intent on refraining from an escalation.

In face of the renewed violence in the region, German authorities are concerned about a rise in anti-Semitism. A pro-Palestinian demonstration in Berlin resulted in clashes and arrests.

Last week, Israeli flags were burned in front of synagogues in Bonn and Münster.

“Our democracy will not tolerate anti-Semitic demonstrations,” the spokesman for Angela Merkel had said at the time.

READ ALSO: Germany vows ‘no tolerance’ after anti-Semitic demos

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