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Israeli flags burned across Germany

Israeli flags have been torn down and set on fire in multiple cities across Germany, local media reported, citing police and officials. The flags were hung outside city halls and other public buildings in solidarity in Israel, which came under a deadly attack by the Gaza-based Hamas militant group on October 7. 

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In North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Wurttemberg states alone, attacks against the flags were recorded in at least 12 cities, according to the news program Tagesschau. On Monday night, a man removed the Israeli flag hoisted on a pole outside the city hall in Aachen and set it ablaze. In Witten, the flag was taken down twice, most recently on Friday night, while the flag hoisted outside a Protestant church in Bad Saeckingen was pelted with eggs. 

Police told Bild newspaper that a drunk man in his 50s had attempted to tear down the flag in the city of Pirna (Saxony), but was stopped by the officers. The Israeli flags were taken down, stolen or destroyed in Mainz (Rhineland-Palatinate), Erfurt (Thuringia), Stralsund (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), and Stade (Lower Saxony), among other places.

“I strongly condemn the attack against our city hall and hope that the police will investigate [the incident],” Stade Mayor Soenke Hartlef said. He added that the city would “continue to show our solidarity with Israel and let the flag fly at the historic city hall despite and precisely because of this attack.” 

In some cases, the officers managed to identify the perpetrators. In Schwerin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), the suspect is a 17-year-old man of Iraqi origin, who acted in a group of people, some of whom “with migrant background,” police said. 

Stealing and desecrating national flags is a criminal offense in Germany, punishable by up to three years in prison. In addition to the actions against Israeli flags, police said on Wednesday that swastikas and the words “Kill the Jews” were written on the fragments of the Berlin Wall. 

Germany has seen a wave of anti-Semitic incidents since last week as politicians and officials are voicing support for Israel in the wake of the deadly attack by the Hamas militant group, which killed more than 1,300 Israelis. Israel responded by airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, killing 2,750 people, according to Palestinian officials. 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been banned in several German cities out of fear of the expression of extremist sentiment. 

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