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Monsey stabbing: Trump urges unity against anti-Semitism ‘scourge’

US President Donald Trump has called for unity to fight against anti-Semitism, a day after a knife attack at a rabbi’s house in New York state.

“We must all come together to fight, confront and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism,” Mr Trump said. 

At least five people were injured in the attack in Monsey, north of New York City on Saturday. 

The attacker was later arrested in New York’s Harlem area. He was charged with attempted murder.

Witnesses said the attacker burst into the house, which was hosting a Hanukkah celebration, pulled out a large knife and began attacking people.

Guests reportedly threw tables and chairs at the man, who then attempted to enter a synagogue next door before fleeing in a car.

man outside rabbi's house
Image captionThe attack took place during a religious celebration inside a rabbi’s house

His vehicle registration was passed to police and licence-plate scanners picked up the car as it entered New York City, where he was detained.

Police named him as Grafton Thomas, 37, of Greenwood Lake, New York. He was charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary. 

What are New York authorities saying about the attack?

State Governor Andrew Cuomo described the attack as “domestic terrorism”. Hatred based on race, colour and creed was an “American cancer spreading in the body politic”, the governor told a news conference on Sunday.

He called for a domestic terrorism law in the state to prosecute such crimes.

He described the attack as “very disturbing” but said it was not an isolated incident, adding that hostility based on race, religion and immigration status was spreading across the country.

“It is domestic terrorism. These are people who intend to create mass harm, mass violence, and generate fear based on race, colour, creed. That is the definition of terrorism,” he said.

Media caption”We were scared, but we were not surprised”

“Just because they don’t come from another country doesn’t mean they are not terrorists. They should be prosecuted as domestic terrorists.”

“We are not going to let this poison spread. No one else can defeat this county, but this country can defeat itself,” he added.

The attack came a day after New York police said officers were stepping up patrols in heavily Jewish districts following a spate of anti-Semitic threats and attacks.

Two of the victims were still in hospital, police said.

What happened?

A man brandishing a machete attacked a Hanukkah celebration at the rabbi’s property in Monsey – an area with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The incident happened at about 22:00 on Saturday (03:00 GMT Sunday).

“The house had many dozens of people in there,” Yossi Gestetner, a co-founder of OJPAC for the Hudson Valley region, told the New York Times.

He said the assailant had his face partially covered by a scarf during the attack and the rabbi’s son was one of those he wounded, Mr Gestetner said.

Aron Kohn, 65, was in the rabbi’s home at the time. He told the paper: “I was praying for my life. He started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all.”

Police outside the house where the stabbing took place
Image captionThe rabbi’s house was hosting a Hanukkah celebration

Mr Kohn said that the attacker then tried to enter a synagogue next to the house, but people inside had locked the door.

What other reaction has there been?

President Trump said the attack was “horrific”.

Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump: The anti-Semitic attack in Monsey, New York, on the 7th night of Hanukkah last night is horrific. We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism. Melania and I wish the victims a quick and full recovery.

In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin expressed his “shock and outrage” at the attack. 

“The rise of anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem, and certainly not just the State of Israel’s problem,” he said in a statement. 

“We must work together to confront this evil, which is raising its head again and is a genuine threat around the world.”

Steve Gold from the Jewish Federation in Rockland County said the US had failed the Jewish community.

“My parents were Holocaust survivors and my father made me promise to do what I can to make sure it never happens again. Today I can say I failed my father. The US has failed my parents and all Holocaust survivors. This cannot continue,” he said.

New York Police Department officers stand guard at Fifth Avenue Synagogue in New York, December 11, 2019
Image captionPolice in New York have been guarding synagogues following a spate of hate crimes

The attack follows a series of anti-Semitic threats and attacks in and around New York City. On Friday Mayor Bill de Blasio announced extra police patrols in three areas of Brooklyn.Skip Twitter post by @NYPDCT

NYPDCounterterrorism@NYPDCT

We are closely monitoring the reports of multiple people stabbed at a synagogue in Monsey, NY (Rockland County)

View image on Twitter

1,1495:09 AM – Dec 29, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy928 people are talking about thisReport

End of Twitter post by @NYPDCT

Responding to the attack in Monsey, Mr de Blasio said he could not “overstate the fear people are feeling right now”.

“We will not allow this to become the new normal. We’ll use every tool we have to stop these attacks once and for all,” he said.Skip Twitter post by @NewYorkStateAG

NY AG James@NewYorkStateAG

I am deeply disturbed by the situation unfolding in Monsey, New York tonight.

There is zero tolerance for acts of hate of any kind and we will continue to monitor this horrific situation.

I stand with the Jewish community tonight and every night.26.4K5:05 AM – Dec 29, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy7,556 people are talking about thisReport

End of Twitter post by @NewYorkStateAG

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah marks the victory of Judah Maccabee over the Syrian Greeks in the Second Century BC and the recapture of Jerusalem.

Are anti-Semitic attacks on the rise in the US?

On Friday New York city police’s hate crimes unit said it was investigating eight anti-Semitic incidents reported since 13 December.

They included a threat by a man who walked into an Orthodox Jewish community organisation’s headquarters in Brooklyn and threatened to shoot someone. In another incident a 30-year-old woman reportedly slapped three women in the face.

New York Police Department commissioner Dermot Shea has said hate crimes in New York City are up 22% this year.

“You see a swastika being drawn, you see a brick being thrown through a window, you see a woman walking down the street with her kids and having her wig ripped off,” he said.

Earlier this month officials in New Jersey said a gun attack that killed a detective and three people in a Jewish supermarket was being investigated as “potential acts of domestic terror, fuelled both by anti-Semitism and anti-law enforcement beliefs”.

In April a gunman killed a female rabbi and wounded three people at a synagogue in San Diego.

That attack came exactly six months after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history, when a gunman killed 11 worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

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