TUNIS - The Synagogue of El Hamma, near the town of Gabes in southern Tunisia, was burned Monday night by unidentified, told AFP several officials of the local Jewish community.
"People have set fire to the synagogue on Monday evening and the Torah scrolls were burned," he told AFP Trabelsi Perez, the head of the Jewish community of Djerba, situated 500 km south of Tunis.
"It surprises me because there were police not far from the synagogue," said Mr. Perez, reached by telephone from Tunis and is also president of the Ghriba, the oldest synagogue in Africa on the island of Djerba.
Ghriba was referred in April 2002 by a truck bombing claimed by al-Qaeda. 21 people were killed: 14 German tourists, five Tunisians and two French.
Mr. Perez further stated that the windows of three or four cars in the Jewish quarter of Houmt Souk (the capital of the island of Djerba) were broken late Friday.
"It's quiet in Djerba, but people (the Jewish community) are afraid," he said.
The Jewish community in Tunisia is now 1,600 people, mostly in Djerba.
The vice-president of the Jewish community in Tunisia, Mr. Khalifa Atoun, while confirming the burning of the synagogue at 15 km from Cadiz, however, qualified the scope of the incident in the context of current instability in the country. "It has burned government buildings, it can happen to everybody," he told AFP.
He said that three Jewish families had left the country because of the unrest that led to the downfall of Ben Ali, "but returned since.
He finally, as Mr. Perez has requested increased police protection.