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United States: US governor condemns attack on Jews as "act of terrorism"

During the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, an attack was carried out on the house of a rabbi in New York State, which Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday classified as an "act of terrorism". According to the Jewish organization OPJAC, five Hasidic Jews were injured during the night in the stabbing gun attack in Monsey, two of whom were life-threatening.

The attack happened on Sunday night in the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in the small town of Monsey, which is dominated by Orthodox Jews. It is about an hour's drive north of the metropolis of New York. The attacker injured at least five people in a very short time and then escaped in a car. However, he was caught by the police shortly afterwards.

The investigative authorities initially did not disclose any further information about his identity or a motive. "This is a big nightmare for our city," said Mayor Michael Specht. The man was charged with fivefold attempted murder and burglary, police said on Sunday.

"These are local terrorists"

"This is an act of terrorism. I think these are local terrorists. They are trying to instill fear," Cuomo told journalists in Monsey, 50 kilometers north of New York City. He was "horrified" by the "hideous and cowardly act". In New York there is "no tolerance for anti-Semitism". Cuomo said he had turned on the hate crime department of the police and that the attacker would have to be punished with "all the severity of the law".

The attacker committed his act during a celebration for the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. According to the organization Orthodox Jewish Public Affairs Council (OJPAC), two injured were in mortal danger. The eyewitness Aron Kohn described the murder weapon as a machete "the length of a broomstick". "He immediately started attacking people as soon as he came in the door. We didn't have time to react at all. I prayed for my life," said the 65-year-old.

Yossi Gestetner, co-founder of the OJPAC organization in the Hudson Valley, told the New York Times newspaper that one of the injured was a son of the rabbi. "Many dozen people were in the house," said Gestetner.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James said she was "deeply disturbed" by the attack and pledged her solidarity with the Jewish community. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that every possible means must be used "to stop these attacks once and for all." The director of the US organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which specializes in combating anti-Semitism, called for increased protective measures for the Jewish community.

In the metropolis of New York, the security precautions were recently tightened after there were around half a dozen anti-Semitic attacks during the Hanukkah celebrations. With the festival of lights, which lasts several days, every year Jews commemorate the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC.

In the United States, anti-Semitic violence has generally increased in recent years. On December 10, two attackers killed four people in Jersey City. In October 2018, a 46-year-old assailant murdered 11 people in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Worldwide dismay

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was shocked. He called for the "evil" of anti-Semitism to be combated together, which was a danger "around the world". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned the attack.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial said it was "deeply concerned about the news and pictures from the site of another anti-Semitic attack". The Wiesenthal Center called on US President Donald Trump to set up a FBI special unit to fight anti-Semitism "after the endless attacks on Jews and their religious institutions". The International Auschwitz Committee and the Conference of European Rabbis also condemned the attack

The unharmed believers around Rabbi Rottenberg continued their Hanukkah celebration after the attack in the neighboring synagogue, as a video from the local Jewish community on Twitter shows. In the commentary on this, the song of the believers was also translated: "The grace of God has not ceased and his grace has not forsaken us." (apa / afp / dpa)