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Tunisia synagogue blast kills 5

TUNIS, Tunisia (CNN) -- Five people were killed on Thursday when a truck filled with natural gas blew up near a historic synagogue in Tunisia, a U.S. Embassy official in Tunis has confirmed.

Tunisian officials think it may have been an accident, but Israeli officials are saying they believe the incident was a terror attack.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior said the blast near the historic El Ghriba synagogue on Djerba, an island off the south-eastern Tunisian coast, was a deliberate anti-Jewish attack, according to the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz.

"The wave of recent anti-Semitic events reached its peak today with the cruel murder of tourists at the ancient synagogue of Djerba in Tunis," Melchior is quoted as saying.

A Foreign Ministry official also told CNN that the incident was a terror strike.

Police are investigating.

Fear that the explosion could be the result of an anti-Jewish attack, fueled by anger toward Israel, is "a question in everybody's mind," said Philip Breeden, press spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy.

Twenty people were reported to be wounded in the blast.

The driver was killed and those injured suffered burns of varying degrees of seriousness.

Four of those killed were German tourists, according to a Jewish official at the synagogue, Ha'aretz reported.

The World Jewish Congress says that although the present synagogue was built in 1929, it is believed there has been a continuously used synagogue on the site for the past 1,900 years. It is the oldest synagogue in North Africa.

The Jews of Djerba are joined by several thousand Jewish pilgrims from around the world in an annual festival to celebrate the minor spring Jewish holiday of Lag B'Omer, which comes later this month. Breeden said Djerba is a popular tourist destination.

Synagogues in Europe, notably in France, have been targeted by attackers, and many acts of violence against Jews and Jewish sites in Europe have been reported since the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000. In the most serious case, a synagogue in the southern French city of Marseille was recently burned to the ground.

In France Wednesday, there were reports of attacks on Jewish football players and a bus in Paris carrying students of a Jewish school.


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