Alleged Venezuelan synagogue vandals arrested

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Seven police officers were among 11 people arrested for involvement in an attack on a Venezuelan synagogue.

One of the arrested men is reported to be a guard at the synagogue.

In an attack on the Tiferet Israel Sephardic synagogue in Caracas last month, vandals threw Torah scrolls on the floor and damaged them, and painted epithets such as "death to the Jews" on the synagogue’s walls. A roster of member families also was stolen.

The attack is seen as an outgrowth of anti-Semitic rhetoric by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that grew increasingly strident during Israel’s military operation in Gaza. Chavez also accused his political opposition of staging the attack.

"What a coincidence, the gang leader is a metropolitan police officer who for the last four years was the personal bodyguard of the synagogue’s rabbi," Chavez said in an interview Sunday with the Venevision TV station, Reuters reported.

Chavez broke diplomatic ties with Israel on Jan. 6, while the Gaza operation was ongoing, expelling its ambassador and staff.

The alleged vandals were arrested during weekend raids and are scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

"We thank the authorities for the quick detention of the suspects," Elias Farache, president of Venezuela’s Jewish Association, told the Associated Press.

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