Berlin City Hall damaged in arson attack amid Gaza protests

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A city hall in Berlin was damaged in an attempted arson attack overnight, police said on Thursday with graffiti in support of Gaza left on the building’s facade.

According to a statement by Berlin police spokesperson Beate Ostertag, a witness saw two people fleeing from the scene after noticing fire coming from a room on the ground floor of the town hall.

Authorities were able to extinguish the fire with no injuries being reported.

Words were spray-painted across a wall around the building, reading, “If Gaza burns, Berlin burns” and “Free Gaza, end the murder”.

“A resident alerted the fire department and police because he had heard clanging noises at Tiergarten City Hall at around 1:45am and shortly afterward noticed a fire on the ground floor. Our colleagues arrived at the scene. The fire was extinguished and two perpetrators were seen fleeing the scene. And our emergency services noticed writing on the city hall that had been applied with paint. They have a connection to the Middle East conflict and that is why our state security has taken over this investigation,” Ostertag said.

He added: “Due to the writing, it is initially assumed that there could be a connection (to the Middle East conflict) and that is why the State Security is investigating. But as always, the investigation is going in every direction.”

Germany has seen pro-Palestinian protests in recent months as the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza continues.

On May 7, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters were cleared from the grounds of one of Berlin’s universities after setting up a spontaneous protest camp, while similar rallies and clashes with police have been seen on campuses across Europe and the US.