A man hurled a suitcase containing a makeshift bomb made of gasoline canisters at Cairo's main downtown synagogue in the early hours Sunday morning, but there were no injuries or damage, police said.
An Egyptian security source said the device was thrown by an unknown person who arrived at the Panorama Hotel, which is located across the street from the synagogue.
The man was carrying a medium-sized suitcase and asked the reception clerk for a room. As he was checking in, he abruptly walked out towards the entrance, threw the suitcase and escaped into an alley.
The case contained four containers of gasoline each attached to a glass bottle of sulfuric acid meant to shatter on impact and ignite the makeshift bomb, said police.
Police said the bag fell onto the sidewalk in front of the hotel and briefly caught fire before being extinguished. There were no injuries and no damage to the historic synagogue.
The source noted that remains of the suitcase were found in the area, including the assailant's clothes, bits of cotton, matches and a lighter. The man was being sought by the police.
The Shaare Shamayim Synagogue is not in everyday use, and holds most of its events on holidays, when it is attended by Cairo's Jews, workers of the Israeli Embassy, American students studying in the Egyptian capital and others.
Eyewitnesses reported on Twitter that many bottles filled with a liquid were scattered in the area. Some who heard about the incident expressed their hope that the fire would not reach the synagogue's basement, "where there are more than 20,000 books."
The Rambam synagogue and the Karaite synagogue are expected to be inaugurated in early March in Cairo's "Jewish quarter" in the heart of the city, following a long renovation.
Egypt's Jewish community, which dates back millennia and in the 1940s numbered around 80,000, is down to several dozen, almost all of them elderly.
Egypt and Israel fought a war every decade from the 1940s to the 1970s until the 1979 peace treaty was signed.
Despite that treaty, Egyptian sentiment remains unfriendly to Israel, and anti-Semitic stereotypes still occasionally appear in the Egyptian media.
Since an Islamist insurgency based in southern Egypt was quashed in the 1990s, there have been few organized terrorist attacks in Egypt's Nile valley and the capital Cairo. There have, however, in a number of amateurish attempts to attack foreigners over the years.
In February 2009 a crude explosive device planted in a bazaar popular with tourists killed a French teenager.