President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Updated at 2:27pm ET.
Paris suffered at least six nearly simultaneous attacks on on Friday (Nov. 13), blamed by president François Hollande on the extremist group ISIL, which left at least 128 people dead and around 300 wounded.
The attacks during a normal, busy Friday night included a mass shooting at a concert hall, several shootings at bars and restaurants, and several bomb detonations, including more than one near France’s national stadium, where a soccer match between the French and German national teams was in progress.
Eight assailants died, most via suicide after reportedly detonating explosive belts they were wearing.
Hollande called the attacks an “act of war” carried out by ISIL, and pledged that France would respond with a “merciless” fight against terrorism. He declared a state of national emergency, which included increased border security, as well as three days of national mourning.
It was the worst attack on a European target since the Madrid bombingsin 2004, when 190 people were killed and more than 1,800 wounded, in four coordinated attacks on commuter trains.
It is also the second terrorist attack on Paris this year, after gunmen killed journalists at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, a policewoman, and several people during an attack on a supermarket. In August, a heavily armed gunman was stopped on a train on its way from Brussels to Paris just before he was able to open fire on passengers.
ISIL claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks in a statement released on social media in Arabic, French, and English. The statement, which has not yet been independently verified, called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity,” and said that France’s actions in Syria were a factor in the decision to target the country.
Vague generalities and no specific background information about the attackers suggests that ISIL may have inspired the attacks, rather than directly orchestrating them.
The sites of the attacks
Stade de France
At about 9:20pm an explosion detonated near the French national stadium, where a soccer match between the French and German national teams was in progress. A second blast was heard 10 minutes later, and a third 20 minutes after that. Hollande, who was at the match, was quickly evacuated. No one apart from the bombers appear to have died in the blasts.
At least one attacker had a ticket to the game, and was reportedlystopped by security from entering the stadium, prompting him to detonate his explosives. According to the Wall Street Journal, a second bomber blew himself up outside the stadium, shortly thereafter, and a third attacker detonated explosives at a nearby McDonald’s.
Le Petit Cambodge and Le Carrillon
At around the same time, several gunmen opened fire at Le Petit Cambodge, a Cambodian restaurant on rue Bichat, in the the trendy Canal Saint Martin neighborhood. Eleven people were killed, the AP reported, citing a police officials. Patrons of a nearby bar, Le Carrillon, were also injured in the shooting.
Just before 10pm, in the worst single attack, around 87 people died when gunmen entered a large concert hall in the 11th arrondissement, where an American band, Eagles of Death Metal, were playing. The venue has capacity of 1,500 and was sold out, the BBC reported. Eyewitnesses described (link in French) the attackers as unmasked and young, and said they made concertgoers lie on the floor before opening fire on them.
French police stormed the building around midnight. At least one report from someone who escaped said the gunmen spoke to hostages, telling them that the attack was a response to France’s military interventions in Syria. France joined the US in airstrikes against ISIL in Syria in September, and announced this month it was sending an aircraft carrier to fight ISIL.
La Belle Equipe
Five people were killed during an explosion on a street called Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. A suicide bomber also detonated a blast on Boulevarde Voltaire. The New York Times reported that only one person—the bomber himself—was killed.
Public buildings, schools, museums, and markets are closed today, and the police have temporarily banned demonstrations and other large gatherings. The Eiffel Tower has been closed indefinitely, according to the operator of the popular tourist attraction. There is increased security at all French borders.
Attention is now turning to how such deadly, coordinated attacks could take place in a city that had so recently been struck by terrorists. Germany has offered the help of its security services, while other world leaders have sent messages of solidarity.
Discussion will intensify about how the attacks will affect Europe’s policy of open borders. These have been challenged in recent months as the flow of migrants, and especially refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, has dramatically increased.
Who are the attackers?
Belgium’s justice minister announced today (Nov. 14) that there were several police raids in the St. Jans Molebnbeek neighborhood in Brussels on Saturday, and several people have been arrested in connection to last night’s attacks.
Paris public prosecutor François Molins said two of the attackers who were killed in last night’s violence have been identified. Fingerprints identified one of the attackers as a 30-year-old Frenchman who was known to be radicalized.
He was born in the Parisian suburb Courcouronne and had been sentenced eight times between 2008 and 2010 for minor violations, according to Molins. A passport for one of the State de France assailants showed that he was born in Syria.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is reconsidering the last-ditch offer made by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, sources have told Kathimerini.
Kathimerini understands that the pressure caused by the closure of banks as well as the expiration of the Greek bailout program on Tuesday has caused some members of the government to urge Tsipras to accept Juncker’s offer.
Sources said the prime minister’s office has already informed the Commission that it is examining the proposal.
According to what is known of the proposal Tsipras would have to send a written acceptance of the version of proposals from the lenders published on Sunday, with a pledge to campaign for them to be accepted in the planned July 5 referendum.
The offer published on Sunday incorporated a proposal from Greece that would set value-added tax rates on hotels at 13 percent, rather than at 23 percent as originally planned in the lenders’ proposals. It was not immediately clear whether there would be any additional changes.
If the offer were accepted, the euro zone finance ministers could adopt a statement saying that a 2012 pledge to consider stretching out loan maturities, lowering interest rates and extending an interest payment moratorium on euro zone loans to Greece would be implemented in October.
The offer would be conditional on a letter to Juncker, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande arriving in time to arrange an emergency meeting of the Eurogroup on Tuesday.
As an observant Jew with children in Jewish schools in Paris, he is worried about anti-Semitism in his home country and the popularity of radical Islam. He’s also worried about his government’s relations with the other country in which he has citizenship, Israel – especially France’s plan to ask the UN Security Council to call for a Palestinian state on the 1949 armistice lines.
Habib voiced his concerns to French President François Hollande while the two were returning from a visit to Italy on Sunday.
“I tried to tell the president on our flight that, in my opinion, it is counterproductive to go to the UN and try to force Israel’s hand. The great powers should push parties to negotiate, that is the only way to reach a good agreement. I think he listened. He said he would update me,” Habib told The Jerusalem Post from his office in Paris the next day.
Habib said he got the impression from Hollande that France thinks the US will veto its resolution anyway, but the MP maintained that the government would be making a mistake to pressure Israel in this way, even if it is certain it will be vetoed.
According to Habib, the UN resolution would give the Palestinians the state they want, with nothing in return – without them recognizing Israel as the Jewish state or giving up the right of return.
Instead of a UN resolution, France should push both sides to negotiate, which is the only way to bring peace, he posited.
At the same time, Habib is not very optimistic about the possible outcome of such talks.
“Israel wants and always wanted peace, but I don’t think it’s possible now,” he contended. “In the meantime, we should try to encourage coexistence to bring real peace, which would mean living side by side. [The Palestinians] don’t want any Jew to live in Gaza or Judea and Samaria; that’s not peace.”
“Whoever wants peace has to understand Jerusalem can never be divided and we need freedom of religion for all, like we have under Israeli sovereignty,” he stressed.
Habib told Hollande that Israel is ready for real peace, and proved so in the past by evacuating towns in Gaza where Israelis were born and raised. However, he delineated that the conflict is clearly not about land – otherwise the Gaza disengagement and generous offers by prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak would have brought peace.
“Everyone wants an agreement and it’s very complicated.
The fact is that for 70 years, no one has succeeded,” he sighed.
“I explained to the president, as a French MP, that Israel is the only state in the region – where thousands of women and children are being killed – that has the same values as we do,” Habib continued. “Hamas is like Islamic State and Boko Haram, and wants Shari’a; negotiating with them is a bad idea. The world has to understand that Israel is in a hostile environment. It’s a small state, and the only one in the world for the Jewish people.”
Israel will not give up on its security and its land for “fantasies”; as a small country, it “doesn’t have the luxury of making mistakes.”
“Israel is like the life insurance of the Jewish people. I am convinced that if the State of Israel existed at the time, the Holocaust would have been impossible,” he added.
Habib asserted that Europeans can be naïve and ignore the lessons of the past, which is why they don’t understand how important it is that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East – where he emphasized that everyone else is either a dictator or an extremist.
That naïveté applies to the Iran nuclear talks as well.
Habib expressed pride in France’s stance in the negotiations, saying his country is relatively alert, but he is concerned about the American position and Russian dominance in the negotiations.
“We all want an agreement with Iran, but it has to be a good one – and this is not a good one. We have to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and all experts and reports say they are on the way to getting one,” he pointed out.
“I don’t think we’re heading towards [a deal] that looks effective. Iran will get all its money back and will be ready for the minute it is allowed to have weapons.”
Habib compared the brewing Iran deal to the 1938 Munich Agreement: “Everyone wanted to prevent a war, but we still got one.”
The French MP postulated that a bad deal with Iran puts the whole world in danger, not just Israel.
“How can a country like the US allow something like this?” he wondered. “I don’t understand it.”
IF HABIB’S positions seem very similar to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, there’s a reason for that: Both grew up on the philosophy of Likud forebear Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and the two have been close personal friends for over 20 years.
Habib’s father, Emanuel Habib, was a leader of the Tunisian Jewish community in France and a well-known Revisionist Zionist who was friends with prime minister Menachem Begin.
Habib, 54, joined the Jabotinsky- founded Betar youth movement as a teen; he made aliya in the late-1970s, when he finished high school in France, and studied industrial engineering at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology.
He eventually became an executive at Citizen Watches and the Groupe Vendome luxury jewelry brand, all the while engaging in activism in the French Jewish community through the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF).
It was through that activism that Habib met Netanyahu in the early 1990s, and became friends with him and his wife, Sara.
In 2013 Habib was elected a member of the French National Assembly, as part of the centrist UDI party, representing French expats in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, San Marino, Turkey, the Holy See and Israel – which has more French citizens than all the other areas combined. The MP said he is proud to represent constituents from places that are central to all three monotheistic religions.
When asked if he coordinates his political actions with Netanyahu, Habib’s response made it clear he was sensitive to accusations of dual loyalty.
“I ask the prime minister’s opinion and I give him mine, but he’s the prime minister of Israel and I’m an MP in France,” he began, but then continued to detail the dynamics between them.
“We talk, and of course we share values; France and Israel have the same goal [of peace].
I love France very much. I was born there, and it is my first language, but there is no problem loving both countries.
France and Israel have friendly relations.”
“I am a member of the French Parliament and Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, have been among my closest friends for 23 years – well before he became prime minister,” he revealed.
“Personally, I have learned a lot from him and gained a lot of useful experience at his side.
“This is why I am very grateful to him. I strongly believe that Netanyahu, who is still young, will [go down] in history as one of Israel’s greatest prime ministers, and will deeply mark Israel history.
I truly know that under his leadership, the people of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide are in safe hands and can sleep peacefully.
“As a Jew and as a French-Israeli binational, it is an honor for me to count him among my inner circle,” continued Habib.
“And I was touched when he said last week to [former French president Nicolas] Sarkozy, when the three of us met: ‘We are like brothers.’” As for political issues, “I talk to the prime minister often and I try to explain France’s concerns to him. The French government has good intentions and wants peace, but they don’t understand it’s not just about territory. My deep belief is this is, fundamentally, a religious war.”
AS AN observant Jew in the French National Assembly at a time when anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise, Habib has received death threats and must be accompanied by bodyguards in France.
Habib said the attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this year are tied to demonization of Israel.
“In [Operation Protective Edge], the media just showed dead bodies of Palestinian children all the time. Any normal person is pained to see a child killed, but the media only showed that, not the Grads and [other] rockets shot at Israel. That is why the French media holds part of responsibility in the rise of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic feelings.
“These pictures of children, trapped in a city under fire and sometimes killed, have been used as a justification for recent anti-Semitic attacks in France – for example, in last January’s attack on Hyper Cacher,” he explained.
As for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, calling for a boycott of a country is considered illegal discrimination in France, and in most cases French courts do not allow boycotts to continue – but the problem is a moral one at its core, Habib detailed.
The MP pointed to atrocities throughout the Middle East and Africa and said the UN hardly ever condemns them, but focuses on Israel.
“French people don’t hear that 300,000 people were killed in Syria and that Islamic State is crucifying Christians like they did 2,000 years ago.
They think Israel is the source of the world’s problems, when the Palestinians are responsible for the conflict,” he lamented. “War in the Middle East is not about territory, it is about religion.”
“This is a moral problem for everyone, not just Jews.
“The world needs to open its eyes. I’m not just worried about French Jews, I’m worried about France, my country, which is facing a Islamist threat,” he stated, clarifying that “of course not all Muslims are jihadis, but It is a lot of people… There are thousands of cases in France.”
We can’t know for sure. It is a lot of people… There are thousands of cases in France.
This is a phenomenon,” he warned.
“You can criticize the government, but so much attention is focused on the tiny, sole Jewish state that has been fighting for its existence for 70 years. People used to say Jews poisoned wells or put Christian blood in matzot. Today they blame a tiny state for all that is happening in the world,” Habib said.
Leaked documents purport to show that NSA wiretapped current leader Francois Hollande as well as two former presidents.
The United States wiretapped France’s former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as current leader Francois Hollande, according to documents released by WikiLeaks.
The spying spanned 2006 to 2012, French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website, said on Tuesday, quoting documents classed as “Top Secret” which include five reports from the US National Security Agency based on intercepted communications.
The most recent document is dated May 22, 2012, just days before Hollande took office, and reveals that the French leader “approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the eurozone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone”.
Another document dated 2008 was titled “Sarkozy sees himself as only one who can resolve world financial crisis”.
Hollande called a meeting of his defence council to discuss the reports on Wednesday.
Ever since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed in 2013 that the NSA had been eavesdropping on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it had been understood that the US had been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians.
Still, the new revelations are bound to cause diplomatic embarrassment for the Americans, even though allies have been spying on allies for thousands of years.
Hollande said last year that he discussed his concerns about NSA surveillance with President Barack Obama during a visit to the US, and they patched up their differences.
Spy scheme reviewed
After the Merkel disclosures, Obama ordered a review of NSA spying on allies, after officials suggested that senior White House officials had not approved many operations that were largely on auto-pilot.
After the review, American officials said Obama had ordered a halt to spying on the leaders of allied countries, if not their aides.
Neither Hollande’s office nor Washington would comment on the new leaks. Contacted Tuesday by AFP, Hollande’s aide said:
“We will see what it is about.”
US State Department spokesman John Kirby meanwhile said: “We do not comment on the veracity or content of leaked documents.”
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson said he was confident the documents were authentic, noting that WikiLeaks previous mass disclosures have proven to be accurate.
Ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP and its allies led voting in the first round of French local elections, exit polls suggest.
They pushed the far-right National Front into second, with President Francois Hollande’s ruling Socialists in third.
Voters are electing representatives in 101 departments, or counties, charged with issues like schools and welfare.
A second round of voting will take place in a week’s time.
Mr Hollande’s third place in the estimated results, released after polling closed on Sunday, follow on from defeats in municipal and EU elections last year.
Various exit polls put the UMP and its partners in first place – ahead of Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN).
Some polls ahead of the vote had indicated that the far-right, anti-immigration FN could come top in the first round.
Ms Le Pen had been hoping the elections would build momentum ahead of her expected bid for the presidency in 2017.
Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls welcomed the news that the FN had scored less that some had predicted, saying the results showed it was not the strongest force in French politics.
However, Ms Le Pen called for Mr Valls to resign, celebrating what she said was a “massive vote” for her party, exceeding its performance in the European Parliament elections.
Analysis: Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris
It’s another big vote for the French far-right, following the municipal and European elections last year. In this first round of departmental or county council elections, nationwide 24.5% of voters chose the National Front, according to one poll.
It is a figure that shows yet again how Marine Le Pen’s strategy of building a system of local organisation and shutting down the party’s overtly racist elements is paying off.
However, opinion polls had suggested the far-right could have done better – even emerging as the most popular party in the election.
That didn’t happen, which has given some cheer to the mainstream opposition here, led by former President Sarkozy.
The results mean the second round of voting on 29 March will see a run-off between the UMP and the FN in many counties.
In the past, voters for rival parties have combined in the second round to keep the far-right out.
By late afternoon on Sunday, turnout stood at almost 43%, higher than in the last local election in 2011.
For the first time, voters in these elections are not choosing single candidates – but pairs of candidates – one man and one woman – in order to enforce strict gender equality in local politics.
Barely 24 hours after Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister, joined millions marching in Paris to pay tribute to the 17 people killed by Islamist extremists, the country’s president struck a much more confrontational tone.
“The duplicity of the west is obvious,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a press conference on Monday evening. “As Muslims we have never sided with terror or massacres: racism, hate speech, Islamophobia are behind these massacres.”
“The culprits are clear: French citizens undertook this massacre and Muslims were blamed for it,” he added.
Although political leaders in Turkey have repeatedly condemned the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, a Jewish supermarket and a policewoman, a parallel narrative has emerged in the country, with conspiracy theorists blaming the murders on foreign intelligence agencies rather than radical Islamists.
A similar phenomenon has occurred in Russia, which sent Sergei Lavrov, foreign minister, to Sunday’s march.
Some such theories have been endorsed by pro-government figures — highlighting the growing resentment and suspicion of the west in two strategically important countries at a time of rising tensions over Ukraine and the Middle East.
“In Turkey, at least, it looks dangerously like people are playing a double game,” said Aaron Stein of the Royal United Services Institute, a UK think-tank. “Issue condemnations that play internationally, even as you tolerate supporters pushing crazy opinions that appeal to your political base.”
Melih Gokcek, mayor of Ankara for the ruling AK party, said on Monday that “Mossad [the Israeli intelligence service] is definitely behind such incidents . . . it is boosting enmity towards Islam.” Mr Gokcek linked the attacks to French moves towards recognising Palestine.
Ali Sahin, a member of Turkey’s parliament and foreign affairs spokesman for the AK party, last week set out eight reasons why he suspected the killings were staged so that “the attack will be blamed on Muslims and Islam”.
Mehmet Gormez, director of the state-run religious affairs directorate, described the attacks as a “perception operation” that cynically used the symbols of Islam, although he later appeared to tone down his comments.
In his own remarks on Monday, Mr Erdogan added: “Games are being played throughout the Islamic world”. He expressed bewilderment that French intelligence services had not followed the culprits more effectively. However, he has mainly appeared to hint at a conspiracy behind the depiction of the killings rather than the murders themselves.
In Russia, some pro-Kremlin commentators sought to link the killings to geopolitical machinations by the US.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of Russia’s leading tabloids, ran the headline: “Did the Americans stage the terror attack in Paris?” and posted a series of interviews on its website that presented various reasons why Washington might have organised the attack.
In one interview, Alexander Zhilin, head of the pro-Kremlin Moscow Centre for the Study of Applied Problems, claimed the terror attack was US retribution against President François Hollande for a January 6 radio interview in which Mr Hollande urged the EU to lift sanctions against Russia.
Washington used the attacks as “a quick fix for consolidating” US and EU geopolitical interests in Ukraine, Mr Zhilin claimed.
Others repeated a popular Russian conspiracy theory blaming the US intelligence services for a swath of terrorist assaults, from the 9/11 attacks on the US to last week’s Paris killings.
“For the last 10 years, so-called Islamist terrorism has been under the control of one of the world’s leading intelligence agencies,” Alexei Martynov, director of the International Institute for New States, a think-tank, told pro-Kremlin internet outlet LifeNews. “I am sure that some American supervisors are responsible for the terror attacks in Paris, or in any case the Islamists who carried them out.”