Posted on December 29, 2023

France Warns of ‘Very High’ Terror Threat on New Year’s Eve

Jörg Luyken and Vivian Song, The Telegraph, December 29, 2023

French authorities have warned of a “very high” terror threat on New Year’s Eve because of the war in Gaza, as Germany also braced itself for violence.

Gerard Darmanin, the French interior minister, said on Friday that 90,000 police officers and gendarmes would be deployed throughout the country during the festivities.

“I’ve requested a very strong mobilisation of police forces and the gendarmerie under the context of a very high terrorist threat, of course due to what’s happening in Israel and Palestine,” said Mr Darmanin.

Some 5,000 soldiers from Operation Sentinel, a military operation aimed at protecting the French from terror threats, and 35,000 firefighters will also be dispatched.

In Paris, where up to 1.5 million people are expected to descend on the Champs-Elysees for the New Year’s Eve countdown, 6,000 officers will be on patrol. Police will be permitted to use drones for the first time as part of their operations.

Meanwhile, in Germany, authorities have announced one of the largest police operations in years as they attempt to secure the streets of Berlin.

Nancy Faeser, the German interior minister, said she was “concerned that New Year’s Eve could once again be a day on which we experience blind rage and senseless violence”.

Noting that violence had increased on Dec 31 in recent years, she added: “Of course we have to keep a very close eye on the danger of this mixing with radicalisation, which we are now seeing in light of the Middle East conflict.”

Some 4,000 police will be deployed throughout the German capital, where local law enforcement will be supported by officers drafted in from other parts of the country.

Germany has reported a surge in alleged terror plots since the beginning of the war in Gaza, with Cologne Cathedral closed over Christmas because of concerns that Islamic State had a plan to attack it.

In France, Mr Darmanin said the situation in Israel and Gaza had exacerbated the terror threats it was facing, but noted the country has been a target for attacks for many years.

France has been on its highest state of counter-terrorism alert since mid-October, when a teacher in the northern town of Arras was stabbed to death by a radicalised former pupil who reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” as he attacked.

The incident came a week after Hamas launched its attack on Israel on Oct 7. Mr Darmanin said at the time that there was a link between the attack and the war in the Middle East.

Earlier this month, the interior minister instructed police forces to be extra vigilant over the Christmas holiday, which ultimately passed without incident.

“The presence of dissuasive law enforcement and the work of our intelligence services are extremely reassuring and effective for our fellow citizens who must continue to live and celebrate if they wish,” he said.

While security forces will be mobilised in mass numbers across France over the weekend, Paris’s local, unarmed municipal police officers will go on strike on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day to demand higher wages.

Unions have said up to 80 per cent of municipal police forces could strike across the country on Dec 31 amid similar complaints.