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Germany and France beef up security ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations

France and Germany have ramped up security ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations following warnings that the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas had raised the risk of terror attacks.

Police in the German city of Cologne are bolstering their forces following a report that Islamist groups may be planning an attack on the city’s famous cathedral on New Year’s Eve.

Officer Martin Lotz said at a press conference on thet officers carrying submachine guns and wearing protective vests would be deployed in the city.

The city’s gothic cathedral announced it will only open for church services until further notice “due to the current security situation,” according to a statement it posted on social media.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, police are attempting to raise awareness of the dangers of fireworks through social media channels.

“Don’t attack us. Don’t shoot at us with fireworks and rockets. Avoid penalties or several years in jail,” Berlin police warned in a video released on X, formerly known as Twitter, in the lead up to New Year’s Eve.

Concerns are heightened after last year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in Berlin turned into violent riots. Several were injured, including police officers and firefighters who said fireworks were deliberately aimed at them. The pyrotechnics also sparked street fires.

City authorities have established three firework-free zones in the city’s district of Neukölln – an area which became a flashpoint for pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent weeks.

According to German newspaper Die Zeit, Berlin’s governing mayor, Kai Wegner, said that police in the capital are better equipped this year than last year, and will use full force “if necessary.”

Wegner has also acknowledged that the security situation this year will be “more tense” due to the events that have unfolded since October 7.

Similarly Barbara Slowik, chief of Berlin’s police force, described an “intense need to protect Jewish and Israeli people” on New Year’s Eve.

Referring to the heightened tensions caused by the Israel-Hamas conflict, Slowik warned “we are certainly assuming that these emotions will also be acted out on the streets,” according to public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

‘Very high terrorist threat’

Meanwhile France will deploy 90,000 officers as the country faces “very high terrorist threat,” French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Friday.

“I have asked for a very strong mobilisation of our police and gendarmes in a context of very high terrorist threat due to, of course, what is happening in Israel and Palestine,” Darmanin told journalists.

The number of police mobilized is around the same as that for the New Year’s Eve last year, according to data from the French Interior Ministry.

Apart from terrorist threats, France traditionally sees a rise in minor offences, especially burning cars, as people celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

The French Interior Ministry hailed a decrease in number of cars burned on December 31, 2022, with 690 compared to 874 cars set on fire on December 31, 2021.

The beefed-up security comes after similar measures were put in place across several European countries ahead of Christmas Eve.

Countries including France, Germany and Austria increased security checks and protections for churches ahead of Christmas Eve Mass and celebrations.

Earlier in December, four alleged Hamas members suspected of plotting terror attacks on European soil were arrested by German and Dutch authorities.

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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