Pro-israel demonstration Paris France
People demonstrate to support Israel's military action in the Gaza strip, near Israel's embassy in Paris. Reuters

Thousands of Parisians attended a demonstration called by Jewish groups to show unity and support to Israel following a rise in communal tensions in France exacerbated by the conflict in Gaza.

Up to 6,000 people, many waving Israeli flags, gathered in front of the Israeli embassy in the French capital, chanting "Hamas terrorists" and "Hamas assassins".

The demonstration - the first held in Paris since the beginning of Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza - came as Jews are lamenting a growth in anti-Semitism.

"We are here to say that we will fight terrorism in Israel and anywhere in the world, including France and to show that the French Jewish community is united," Elie Korchia, the vice-president of the Israelite Central Consistory of France, told IBTimes UK.

The area surrounding the rue Rabelais, in the 8th arrondissement near the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in central Paris, was under virtual lockdown.

Hundreds of police officers were deployed and access to the street was restricted.

Young men with portable radios, purportedly part of the demonstration security service, checked documents and cooperated with police to control who was getting in.

In recent weeks, several peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstrations were hijacked by troublemakers, who clashed with police and tried to attack synagogues and Jewish stores.

"There has always been anti-Semitism in France, but now we have passed the limit," said one of the demonstrators, Albert Halifax, 68, adding that his children were planning to leave the country for Israel.

Rising tensions

Even before the conflict erupted in Gaza, inter-communal tensions were on the rise in France.

In June, Jewish community leaders warned that a record number of Jews were leaving the country due to increasing anti-Semitic environment.

Two deadly attacks carried out on Jewish targets by French Islamists fuelled fears in the community.

In 2012, four Jews - including three children - and three soldiers were shot dead in Toulouse by 23-year-old radical Mohamed Merah.

Earlier this year Mehdi Nemmouche, a 29-year-old of Franco-Algerian origin, shot four people dead at the Brussels Jewish Museum in Belgium.

"We have confidence in France and its authorities but there is anxiety [among the community]," Korchia said.

The Jewish Defence League

The Paris rally also followed controversy surrounding a Jewish self-defence group that has been accused of provoking pro-Palestinians into street confrontations.

Left-wing politicians and Mulsim groups have called for the Jewish Defence League (LDJ), a far-right movement deemed as terrorist in the US and Israel, to also be banned in France.

"All organisations that use violence have to be dissolved," said Abdallah Zekri, the chairman of France's Observatory against Islamophobia, who described the LDJ as an "extremist, racist group".

Ahead of the demonstration, interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve hinted that the government could take action against the LDJ, saying that "groups that can be the cause of troubles" will be banned.

At the rally there was no visible presence of the far-right group. Members of the demonstration security service denied they were with the LDJ.

A photo of the rally was, however, posted on the group's twitter account:

Korchia dismissed the controversy, saying it had blown out of proportion and was being used to attack the Jewish community, portraying all its members as extremists.

"It's a few people and they do not represent the community," he said.