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Gunman opens fire near Halle, Germany synagogue on Yom Kippur; kills two

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier carries flowers alongside his wife, Elke Buedenbender, as they arrive at the synagogue in Halle after a gunman shot and killed two people near a synagogue and at a kebab shop, Oct. 10. (Axel Schmidt/AFP via Getty)

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany said the state “must protect Jewish life” in the aftermath of a shooting attack near a synagogue on Yom Kippur.

On Thursday, Oct. 10, Steinmeier visited the site of a right-wing extremist’s attack that left two dead — in front of a nearby Jewish cemetery and one at a Turkish kebab restaurant. The gunman was prevented from entering the synagogue by its secure metal doors.

Steinmeier met with Jewish leaders at the synagogue in Halle, in eastern Germany.

“It must be clear that the state takes responsibility for Jewish life, for the security of Jewish life in Germany,” he told them, according to reports.
Local officials, and Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, also visited the site with the president.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also condemned the attack.

“The representatives of the constitutional state must use all means available against hate, violence and misanthropy. There is zero tolerance,” she said Thursday.

On Wednesday night, Merkel joined a solidarity vigil at a historic synagogue in central Berlin, where she also condemned the attack and asserted that Germany would protect the Jewish community, AFP reported.

“My aim, and that of all politicians, is to do everything to ensure you can live safely,” the chancellor said. “And this day shows that it hasn’t been enough, that we have to do more.”

Meanwhile, a Jewish leader in Germany doubled down on his accusation that police did not adequately protect the Halle synagogue targeted by a gunman on Yom Kippur.

The gunman opened fire near the synagogue in eastern Germany during services Wednesday and at a kebab shop, killing two, in an attack that he livestreamed from a helmet camera. The assailant said that Jews are “the root of all problems.”

“If police had been stationed outside the synagogue, then this man could have been disarmed before he could attack the others,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Deutschlandfunk public radio on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The German media identified the gunman as Stephan Balliet, a 27-year-old German.

Schuster had said Wednesday evening in a statement that it was  “scandalous that the synagogue in Halle was not protected by the police on a holiday like Yom Kippur.”

The synagogue’s high and strong metal doors were secured shut during the services and repelled the gunman’s attack, which reportedly was undertaken with homemade weapons that may have malfunctioned.

The head of Germany’s police union responded that the police could not provide such protection, according to Reuters.

“We’d have to guard every synagogue, every church, every mosque, every holy place in Germany around the clock, so I don’t know if this was a mistake or if this really couldn’t have been foreseen,” Oliver Malchow reportedly told public television in an interview.

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