Israel on Sunday lashed out at the vandalism at the main synagogue in Venezuela after a group of people sprayed the place with "Damn Israel" and "Assassins," referring to Tel Aviv's deadly assault of the impoverished Gaza Strip.
"We deplore this anti-Semitic attack. It is up to Venezuelan authorities to assure law and order," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, adding: "The Venezuelan people are neither racist nor anti-Semitic."
About 15 people broke into Venezuela's main synagogue overnight on Friday, tying up and gagging the guards before destroying scripture books and spraying graffiti, said Elias Farache, the president of Venezuela's Jewish Association.
"They stayed in the synagogue for about five hours, tied and gagged the guards, destroyed the offices and desecrated the place where we keep rolls of the Torah," Judaism's holy book, explained Elias Farache, president of Venezuela's Jewish Association.
"Damn Israel," "We don't want Jews here," "Jews get out" and "Assassins" were among the anti-Semitic slogans on the vandalized synagogue, an AFP journalist reported.
"Never in the history of Venezuela's Jewish community have we been the target of such an aggression. The climate is very tense. We feel threatened, intimidated, attacked," Farache said.
He said the tensions were fueled by the expulsion of Israel's ambassador in Caracas and by the government of Hugo Chavez breaking its diplomatic ties with Israel in mid-January in protest over the military assault of Gaza that left 1,300 Palestinians dead.
The Jewish community has filed an official complaint and Farache has requested the government provide protection for the community.
Venezuelan Minister of Information Jesse Chacon said the government "rejects any violent acts against any group in Venezuela" and denied rumors that the vandals had links with the government.
"The state of Israel and the policies of the state of Israel toward the Palestinians are one thing that we emphatically reject, and the government's relationship with the Jewish population living in Venezuela with which we have an excellent relationship is another," he said.
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