Shots fired at two Jewish schools in Canada, no injuries

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said he is not ruling out banning protests related to the Mideast conflict (Andrej Ivanov)
Quebec Premier Francois Legault has said he is not ruling out banning protests related to the Mideast conflict (Andrej Ivanov)

Two Jewish schools in Montreal were hit by gunfire overnight, police said Thursday, amid spiking tensions in Canada over the Israel-Hamas war.

School staff arriving in the morning found bullet holes in the front doors of the schools in the Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood of Canada's second-largest city, authorities said. There were no casualties.

The shootings follow the firebombing of a synagogue in Montreal earlier this week, and clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel student groups at the city's Concordia University.

"I know emotions are high, and people are scared. But attacking each other is not who we are as Canadians," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during a visit to Montreal.

"If anywhere in the world is going to start building the kinds of understandings that we're going to need to see peaceful resolution in the Middle East... it starts in a place like Canada," he said.

On Wednesday Trudeau reported a "terrifying" rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia across the country.

He said Canada has a long tradition of peaceful co-existence among diverse peoples and it was the "responsibility of every single Canadian to see how we are recognizing each other's pain and fear and move forward."

There were no injuries in the attack on the synagogue, police said.

At Concordia, one person was arrested for assault and three were treated for minor injuries following scuffles.

Administrators said the university, like others, has witnessed "a concerning rise in acts of intimidation and intolerant behavior" that have left students in fear.

In a separate incident, swastikas were discovered in one of the school's buildings, Concordia said in a statement.

As police announced stepped-up security at schools and places of worship, dozens of officers patrolled downtown streets Thursday ahead of several demonstrations planned around Montreal universities.

Urban planning student Alesia Keim, 22, told AFP she felt "on edge."

"It's scary coming to school and seeing three police cars outside and officers inside."

- 'City is in crisis' -

Eta Yudin of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which represents Jews across the country, called the shootings at the Montreal elementary and high schools "hateful and evil."

"No child in Montreal should see their place of learning targeted by a weapon designed to kill," she said. "The hate must stop. Our city is in crisis."

Many countries around the world, particularly in Europe, have faced a resurgence of anti-Semitic acts since the conflict between Israel and Hamas started on October 7.

Over the past month, police counted 73 hate crimes against Montreal's Jewish community, eclipsing the number of hate crimes targeting all groups in 2022.

Yair Szlak, a representative of the local Jewish organization Federation CJA, called the attacks on Jews unacceptable.

"These are difficult times for Jews around the world," he said. "There are those who are trying to import the war going on in Israel to the streets of Montreal."

Quebec Premier Francois Legault told reporters he was not ruling out banning protests related to the Mideast conflict.

On October 7, gunmen from Hamas poured over the Gaza border with Israel and, according to Israeli officials, killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and seized about 240 hostages.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel retaliated with an aerial bombing and ground offensive that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says has killed more than 10,800 people, mostly civilians and many of them children.

The first 75 Canadians and their dependents left Gaza on Tuesday, out of more than 400 registered with Ottawa seeking to leave.