At least two people have been reported killed after armed attackers tried to storm a synagogue in the central German city of Halle. “Multiple” attackers tried to “blow open the gates of the synagogue,” German newspaper Bild reported.

Police have apprehended one attacker and identified as a German national, public broadcaster ARD confirmed.

The shooting took place around noon local time when 80-100 worshippers filled the synagogue to mark Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

“The attackers tried to force their way into the synagogue,” and once that failed “they shot at [a] passerby,” Die Welt newspaper reported.

The police and local media have yet to comment on the motive behind the attack.

German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle covered the synagogue shooting:

Police in Halle confirm that shots were fired in the eastern German city. They warn locals to stay indoors, saying multiple possible suspects fled in a car. One eyewitness told regional public broadcaster MDR that one of the suspects was wearing a military-style combat uniform and was armed with “multiple weapons.”

Two people are confirmed dead by authorities, though no further details of their indentities have been given. Officers say they have detained one suspect. The main train station in Halle, located outside the city of Leipzig, was also closed as police continue to search for the suspects.

Police and Jewish community leaders confirm that the shooting happened in the Paulusviertel district, near a synagogue. While no connection could be declared with certainty, the attack took place on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism.

Max Privorotzki, head of Halle Jewish Community, tells the German press that the building was “fully occupied” at the time of the shooting because of Yom Kippur. He said that a suspect had tried to enter the building. “A heavily armed attacker with a helmet and rifle tried to shoot at our doors,” Privorotzki added.

German authorities have launched a major operation to catch the attackers. The local police backed by special forces are “checking train stations and airports in central Germany as well as traffic moving towards Poland and Czech Republic,” the regional broadcaster MDR confirmed.

A separate shootout was also reported in the nearby town of Landsberg. The initial media reports could not confirm if the two incidents are related.

The deadly shooting comes just days after an averted knife attack at a Berlin synagogue. The knife-wielding attacker climbed the security barrier outside the synagogue shouting “Allahu akbar” and “F*** Israel.” The Berlin police disarmed the attacker with pepper spray and allowed him to walk free soon after. The assailant was identified as a 23-year-old Syrian asylum seeker.

There has been a steep rise in antisemitic violence in Germany. Berlin, the country’s capital, registered a 155 percent spike in violent attacks on Jews in 2018, as compared to 2017. Verbal and physical attacks against Jewish men wearing Kippah, the traditional skullcap, or Jewish women wearing Star of David are so commonplace that nearly 70 percent of German Jews prefer not to wear religious symbols in public, community leaders say.

[UPDATE: One of the attackers has been identified as the 27-years-old neo-Nazi Stephan Balliet. He live-streamed the attack on the internet, Bild newspaper reported]

Video: Man dressed in tactical gear shooting outside the synagogue in Halle

[Cover image via YouTube]

 
 
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