PARIS – Hundreds of demonstrators divided over the Middle East conflict battled in Paris on Sunday during a march against anti-Semitism, attacking journalists and stabbing a police officer before police dispersed them with tear gas.
The clash at the historic Place de la Bastille occurred on the sidelines of a march by 50,000 people protesting a wave of attacks on Jewish schools, cemeteries and synagogues in France amid escalating violence in the Middle East.
Hours after the clash, four gasoline bombs were thrown at the synagogue in La Corneuve, a working class suburb north of Paris. The outside walls were blackened, but there was no damage or injuries reported. Two other synagogues in France reported similar weekend attacks.
Violence also was reported at pro-Israeli marches in other French cities.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrations also were held throughout Europe on Sunday. In Belgium, at least 10,000 marched through the capital of Brussels, burning American flags close to the U.S. embassy and yelling "Sharon-Bush: murderers." About 5,000 people staged a peaceful rally against Israel in Goteborg, Sweden's second-largest city.
Several hundred pro-Israel militants and as many as 500 counter-demonstrators were involved in the fighting in Paris, police said. About 1,500 police and scores of anti-riot vehicles were deployed, and police fired tear gas into the crowd. One officer was stabbed in the stomach, police said.
One group of militants attacked journalists and smashed their equipment. An Associated Press Television News cameraman was among those roughed up.
The Representative Council of French Jewish Groups, an umbrella organization for the Jewish community in France, denounced the extremists as "young hoodlums." "If we didn't have these incidents, this would have been a successful march," said council President Roger Cukierman.
In Marseille, where about 15,000 people demonstrated, one pro-Israeli marcher was injured in clashes with about 100 counter-demonstrators who yelled "Jews are Assassins!" near the city's picturesque port.
The marches came a day after about 20,000 people held a peaceful demonstration in the capital to express support for Palestinians facing a new Israeli offensive in the West Bank.
The offensive has been accompanied by a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in France. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin deployed more than 1,000 police officers to reinforce patrols at Jewish religious sites in a dozen cities after a synagogue in Marseille burned to the ground following an apparent arson attack on March 31.
On Sunday, police said three assailants hurled gasoline bombs at police guarding another synagogue in Marseille for the second time in a week. No one was injured and no property was damaged.
A similar attack early Saturday left charred walls and broken glass near a synagogue in the Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse, police said Sunday. No one was injured, and no one claimed responsibility.
On Friday, prosecutors said three young men of Moroccan origin confessed to throwing gasoline bombs at a synagogue in the southern city of Montpellier on Thursday.
Before the march Sunday, Jospin urged supporters of both Israelis and Palestinians to express their emotions about the Middle East in a "positive, constructive and respectful" manner and cautioned against France splintering into sectarian communities.
Spain's foreign minister raised the possibility Sunday that the European Union could bring sanctions against Israel to put pressure on for a cease-fire but indicated that agreement among EU members over such a strategy could be difficult.
Minister Josep Pique, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, also insisted that a joint position from the EU, United States and Russia was needed if any solution is to be found to the raging conflict.
Spain is hosting Middle East discussions in Madrid on Wednesday involving Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and EU officials.