A pro-Palestinian protest that took place on Sunday in Sarcelles, despite local government restriction, degenerated when hundreds of participants set fire to public property and Jewish business and buildings, witnesses reported.

The demonstration was organized by the New Anti-capitalist Party (NPA ), the French Communist Party (PCF) and a pro-Palestinian organization called Europalestine 95. A counter demonstration organized by the Jewish Defense League was held simultaneously at the Sarcelles RER station.

Sarcelles, known as “little Jerusalem,” is home both to an important Sephardi community and a big North African Muslim population.

The socialist mayor François Pupponi, and the head of the police, prohibited the demonstration, invoking “the risk of disturbance to the public order” and forbade “any gathering connected to the Middle East conflict.”

The JDL website called for “the friends of Israel in Sarcelles to gather in support of the fight against Hamas.”

Pro-Palestinian groups gathered near the RER railway station, surrounded by the Republican Security Services (CRS) riot police.

They began to march, some of them masked, toward the municipality while burning cars, insulting policemen and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. The CRS responded by firing tear gas into the mob.

When the crowd arrived at its assumed target, the synagogue, their access was blocked by the riot police and a group of some thirty young activists from the JDL, armed with cudgels and iron bars.

The pro-Palestinian groups shouted “Israeli murderers!” And the JDL answered: “Palestine f**k you!” Eva Sokol made aliya from Sarcelles 12 years ago. She still has family and friends there and reported what she called “a real Intifada.”

Many Jewish businesses and buildings have been damaged or burned, most symbolically, the synagogue that protesters tried to set fire to.

“People there are terrified,” Sokol said.

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