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Man arrested after car crashes near Israeli embassy in Tokyo

By AFP

November 16, 2023 10:04 AM


Representational image

Japanese police arrested a man on Thursday after a car crashed through a barrier near the Israeli embassy in Tokyo, local media reported.

Video footage appeared to show that the small car had crashed through a temporary barrier and into a fence at an intersection around 100 metres (109 yards) from the embassy.

Media also reported that one police officer was lightly injured.

The man arrested on the spot is a member of a right-wing group and in his 50s, the reports said.

Right-wing groups in Japan are generally not known for being critical of Israel or anti-Semitic.

A fire department spokesperson said only that they received "an emergency call (for an ambulance) for 3-11 Nibancho, Chiyoda ward came at 11.57 (am)".

Police declined to comment and the Israeli embassy could not be reached.

"Around 11:00 am, I heard a huge bang, so I went outside to check out. Then I saw a policeman injured and in pain near the traffic barrier and it looked like he was bleeding. There was also a black car parked nearby," a restaurant employee working near the embassy told public broadcaster NHK.

Countries around the world have stepped up security around Israeli diplomatic missions since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas on October 7.

Israel launched an offensive in Gaza offensive in retaliation for Hamas's brutal October 7 attacks, which killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

With Hamas-controlled authorities claiming the death toll from the offensive has now topped 11,500, including thousands of children, calls for a truce are mounting.

Japan last week supported a joint call by Group of Seven foreign ministers for "humanitarian pauses" in the conflict.

On Thursday, in response to the Israeli army's operation at Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital, Japan's foreign ministry said: "We feel strong indignation on tremendous damage to innocent civilians. Attacks against hospitals or civilians cannot be justified on any ground."

Japan had previously condemned the October 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel, offering "its condolences to the bereaved families and expresses its heartfelt sympathies to the injured."

Canadian Jews shocked

Many in the majority-Jewish Canadian town of Hampstead worried about the potential for unrest tied to the Israel-Hamas war, but residents of the small Quebec community have been startled by the scale of the outbreak of anti-Semitic incidents in recent weeks.

Lorne W., who preferred not to give his last name, told AFP he is "very, very, very much" concerned about the sudden uptick in hate directed at the province's Jewish community, which is one of the oldest and most populous in Canada.

"Myself and my neighbors, we're very cautious and we're very hyperaware of what's going on in the streets. It makes us nervous," he said.

The Middle East is nearly 9,000 kilometers (5,600 miles) away from Hampstead, a Montreal suburb, but the war raging in Gaza has been ever-present on minds here since Hamas's shock October 7 attack and Israel's furious response.

And the dismay has been even harder to escape since a surge of anti-Semitic attacks that last week saw two Jewish schools in Montreal's Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood targeted at night by gunfire -- twice in one case -- and a synagogue firebombed a few days earlier in the suburb of Dollard-des-Ormeaux.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday called such assaults "absolutely unacceptable."

"The terrifying acts of anti-Semitic violence in Montreal need to stop. No parent should ever have to tell their child that their school was shot at. No rabbi should have to explain to their congregation that their synagogue was attacked," he said.

For Diana Singal, a Hampstead resident out walking her dog, "it is scary. I might think of avoiding some Jewish institutions, because there might be some people that will just lash out."

She said members of her family had perished in Nazi death camps during World War II. "I thought we lived in a different world today."

The tumult has come as Israel vows to destroy Hamas in response to its attacks last month, which Israel has said killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Gaza's Hamas-run territory's health ministry says Israel's ensuing aerial bombardment and ground offensive have killed 11,500 people, mostly civilians and including thousands of children.

- Flag at half-mast -

The streets of Hampstead, an upscale English-speaking municipality of 8,000 -- 75 percent of whom identified as Jewish in the last census, which was in 2021 -- are plastered with posters of the 240 hostages kidnapped by Hamas.

The town hall is flying the Israeli flag at half-mast.

"We had requests from various organizations and residents in general, to put up posters of the Israeli hostages. And we definitely wanted to comply with these requests," Hampstead mayor Jeremy Levi told AFP.

Tuesday evening, Hampstead also voted to introduce a fine of 1,000 Canadian dollars for anyone tearing down posters, particularly those of Hamas hostages. The fine is doubled for repeat offenses.

Many locals have found comfort in gathering together, and the town's three synagogues have overflowed on recent Saturdays.

"It is surprising" to see such aggressive acts in Canada, local rabbi Moishe New said. "We didn't expect it."

Montreal police counted more anti-Semitic acts in the past month than in all of 2022. The same trend has been observed elsewhere in the world, including in several European countries.

"We haven't seen this level of anti-Semitism in Montreal, ever," said Levi.

"It's unfortunate," he said, "And, there's nothing being done about it."

"The time for words is over. We need to see action before things get out of control," he added, decrying weak statements against anti-Semitism by politicians and a stepped-up police presence that Levi said has fallen short of expectations.

"There is a conflict in the Middle East," commented Yair Szlak, head of the Federation CJA, one of Canada's oldest Jewish organizations.

"We're all mourning. We're all hurt by it. We're all suffering from it. But it doesn't belong in the streets of Montreal."


AFP


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