The group Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) has claimed responsibility for an attack on a Jewish community center in the capital Yerevan, AzerNews reported on Thursday.
The Mordechai Navi Synagogue at 23 Nar-Dos Street in Yerevan is the only Jewish place of worship in Armenia, headed by the Chief Rabbi of Armenia Gershon Burstein. It was established in June 2011, with financial assistance from Armenian businessman and renowned photographer David Galstyan.
It is estimated that between 500 and 1,000 Jews live in Armenia today, all of them in Yerevan. Most Armenian Jews today are Ashkenazi, with some from around the Caucasian mountains.
In its statement following the attack, ASALA claimed that its “youth wing” had set the synagogue on fire, adding that they are not going to stop and that the next attack on the Jewish community would be carried out outside Armenia.
The nearest country to Armenia with a thriving Jewish community is Azerbaijan, which shares a border and a long history of violence and war with Armenia.
The ASALA was active in the 1970s through the 1990s, and its stated goal was “to compel the Turkish Government to acknowledge publicly its responsibility for the Armenian genocide in 1915, pay reparations, and cede territory for an Armenian homeland.” It was allied for a while with the PLO. At some point, its leaders were taken out by what appeared to be Turkish government secret agents. ASALA’s founder Hagop Hagopian was assassinated on a sidewalk in an affluent neighborhood in Athens, Greece on April 28, 1988. Assassinations of former members of ASALA continued into the late 1990s.
The Bulgarian newspaper Sofia Globe reported that a Molotov cocktail was thrown On October 3 at the Mordechai Navi Synagogue and that the ASALA-Youth group was responsible. The group declared that the attack was meant to “take revenge on Israel and world Jewry for supporting Azerbaijan.”
The group promised to take revenge on Jews, including in European countries: “If Jewish rabbis in the USA and Europe continue to support the Aliyev regime, we will continue to burn their synagogues in other countries. Every rabbi will be under our guns… We will start a war against Israeli Jews in Europe, America, Canada, and Georgia.”
And that was the week before October 7, 2023.