A trio of Palestinian-born German residents who firebombed a synagogue in 2014 were not being anti-Semitic, they were merely expressing their frustration at Israeli military action in Gaza, a German regional court has ruled.

Last week’s surprise judgement in Wuppertal, east of Düsseldorf, led to outrage online, with social media commentators questioning how the burning of a German synagogue for actions in the Middle East could not be anti-Semitic.

The three men, aged between 20 and 31, were given suspended sentences after causing hundreds of pounds’ worth of damage in the Molotov cocktail attack, during which no-one was injured.

The German Jewish community reacted with dismay, noting that the original synagogue had also been burned down, during the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938.

Community leader Leonid Goldberg told Der Spiegel: “I thought the time of the packed suitcase was over. Now I’m wondering whether to pack it again.”

German Green Party politician Volker Beck was highly critical after the first ruling, in 2015, asking: “What do Jews in Germany have to do with the Middle East conflict?”