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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain has seen an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic "hate crimes," with more incidents recorded so far in 2009 than in any previous entire year, a Jewish advisory body said on Friday.
Up to end-June, there were 609 anti-Semitic incidents ranging from verbal abuse to extreme violence, compared with 276 in the same period last year.
The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain's estimated 300,000 Jews on safety issues, said it was the highest number it had recorded since it began collating figures in 1984.
Israel's Gaza offensive against Hamas militants which was launched at the end of December was the main cause, it said, with many of the incidents taking place in January and including direct references to the fighting.
"British Jews are facing ever higher levels of racist attack and intimidation," said Mark Gardner from the CST.
"There is no excuse for anti-Semitism, racism and bias, and it is totally unacceptable that overseas conflicts should be impacting here in this way."
The CST said there had been 77 violent anti-Semitic incidents including two it classified as "extreme violence," an attack which could cause loss of life or grievous bodily harm.
Most incidents took place in London and Manchester, the two biggest Jewish communities in Britain.
"This rise in anti-Semitism is not just concerning for the British Jewish Communities but for all those who see themselves as decent human beings," said Shahid Malik, the government's Cohesion Minister.
Denis MacShane, an MP who led a 2006 parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism, said the issue was "once more a very real problem."
"This is a warning to all of our society, a warning that the damaging forces of extremism and scapegoating are again on the march," he said.
Earlier this month, a senior British counter-terrorism officer said police were concerned about a rise in attacks by far-right groups.
Last week, a white supremacist, who prosecutors said wanted to embark on a war with the "non-British," was found guilty of plotting bomb attacks after he was found with components for homemade incendiary devices.
Editing by Steve Addison