President Emmanuel Macron will meet with political party leaders on Thursday and address the public on television to call for unity and to attempt to avoid the Israeli-Palestinian crisis from spilling over into France, where antisemitism is on the increase.
France has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has historically exacerbated tensions between the two.
Antisemitic acts have risen in France since Hamas attacked Israeli towns on Saturday, killing more than 1,300 people, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
Israel has responded by launching the most powerful bombing campaign on Gaza, ruled by Hamas, in the 75-year history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, killing more than 1,200 and destroying whole neighbourhoods.
Darmanin said France had seen a spike in online hatred but also more direct threats.
“Since Saturday and the terrorist massacres in Israel, there has been over a hundred antisemitic acts, mainly tags and swastikas,” Darmanin told France Inter radio, “but also insults … and people arrested with a knife at the entrance of a school or synagogue … and a drone flying over a Jewish place of worship.”
Twenty-four people have been arrested. The government has assigned 10,000 police to protect some 500 sites.
Darmanin said intelligence services saw no specific terrorist threats against France’s Jewish community, but that threats could come from individuals rather than organised groups.
With two pro-Palestinian protests scheduled on Thursday banned but expected to go ahead, Darmanin said protests would be given the green light – or not – on a case-by-case basis.
“The Palestinian cause is an absolutely respectable one, France has always considered that we need two states, an Israeli one and a Palestinian one … but if it is a demonstration of support for Hamas … it’s no,” he said.
Eleven French citizens are confirmed dead in Israel, and over a dozen are missing.
Esther, the grandmother of 12-year-old Eitan, who is among the missing, urged Macron to help.
“I am begging you as a grandmother,” she said on BFM TV. “He is a French citizen, I’m sure you want to help me ensure he comes back.”
Macron’s television address is scheduled for 8pm (1800 GMT).
More Jews have left France for Israel in recent years than at any other time since the Jewish state was created in 1948, with many citing rising antisemitism as a factor.