Netanyahu demands action from Merkel after synagogue attack in Germany

Security in synagogues in Germany was boosted in the wake of the shooting

GERMANY-SHOOTING/ People lay flowers outside the synagogue in Halle, Germany | Reuters

In an anti-Semitic gun attack, two people were shot dead in the eastern German city of Halle on Wednesday. The suspect, who has been identified by the media as 27-year-old German Stephan Balliet, filmed the shooting and posted it online.

Jewish leaders are demanding action from Germany on Thursday to protect the community and face down resurgent right-wing extremism, as the gun attack on the holy day of Yom Kippur underscored the rising threat of neo-Nazi violence.

According to witnesses, the suspect was armed with two guns and wearing a helmet with a camera on top. He was trying to access a synagogue in the city of Halle, where some 60 worshippers, including 10 US nationals, had gathered to celebrate the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
The rampage was streamed live for 35 minutes on Twitch, and eventually seen by some 2,200 people, the online platform said. It was a chilling reminder of the mosque attack in Christchurch, New Zealand last March which was also streamed online in real-time. Brielle Villablanca, a spokeswoman for Twitch, said, that they have worked “with urgency to remove this content.”

The police managed to capture the suspect after he was injured in a gun battle.

Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a solidarity vigil at Berlin's main synagogue on Wednesday, and firmly condemned the anti-Semitic rampage.

But Jewish leaders said that words were not enough, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining calls for German authorities to "act resolutely against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism".

Security in synagogues in Germany was boosted in the wake of the shooting.

Ronald Lauder, who heads the World Jewish Congress, said, "We need action, not words" as he called for round the clock security for Jewish sites.

"We also need immediately to launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being.

"The fact that 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes."

More than a week before the shooting, the gunman published an anti-Semitic "manifesto" online according to SITE director Rita Katz, who said the document showed pictures of the weapons and ammunition he used.

After trying to open the doors of the synagogue door and shooting dead a female passer-by, he tried unsuccessfully to blast open the gate of the Jewish cemetery with explosives. The man was later seen shooting at a patron of a kebab shop about 600 metres (yards) away from the synagogue.

Jewish community leader Max Privorotzki, who was in the Halle synagogue, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung of the harrowing minutes as the site came under assault.

"We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator wearing a steel helmet and rifle was trying to shoot open our door." Between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue then, Privorotzki said.

"We barricaded our doors from inside and waited for the police," he said, adding that "in-between, we carried on with our service," he added.

"We've made it out with our lives, in health and amazing spirits," wrote Rebecca Blady, a Jewish American community leader, who was in the synagogue.

Anti-terrorist prosecutors confirmed that they were taking over the probe given "the particular importance of the case" which involved "violent acts that affect the domestic security of the Federal Republic of Germany".

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month, warned of the rising danger of the militant far-right, calling it "as big a threat as radical Islamism".