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Belgium - Three Killed, One Injured In Shooting At Brussels Jewish Museum; Israel Says Incitement Against Jews

Published on: May 24, 2014 09:41 PM
By: AP / Reuters
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Police officers codrdon off the area of shooting nea the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, 24 May 2014.  EPAPolice officers codrdon off the area of shooting nea the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, 24 May 2014.  EPA

Belgium -  Three people were shot dead and a fourth seriously wounded in an armed attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on Saturday, officials said. Police detained one suspect and were looking for a second.

The bloodshed, which came on the eve of national and European Parliament elections, led officials to immediately raise anti-terror measures.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who was in the vicinity, said the scene “was terrible and left me shocked” as he saw the bodies of two of the victims lying at the entrance of the museum, located in the swanky Sablon neighborhood of Belgium’s capital.

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Reynders said that “you cannot help to think that when we see a Jewish museum, you think of an anti-Semitic act. But the investigation will have to show the causes.”

Interior Minister Joelle Milquet told reporters that the shooter apparently parked a car outside before entering the Jewish Museum. She added the gunman “apparently fired rather quickly, went outside and left.”

The three dead were two women and a man, and all were struck by bullets in the face or throat, said Ine Van Wymersch, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office. No further details were given.

Van Wymersch said one suspect was detained after he drove away from the museum around the time of the attack. A second person being sought for questioning left the area on foot. Van Wymersch said security camera footage was being studied to try to identify the person.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo expressed support for the Jewish community, and said “everything has been mobilized that can be mobilized” to bring the killer or killers to justice.

“All Belgians are united,” he said.

A banner shows the facade of the Jewish museum, the site of a shooting in Brussels, Saturday, May 24, 2014. APA banner shows the facade of the Jewish museum, the site of a shooting in Brussels, Saturday, May 24, 2014. AP

A statement issued by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and said, “This act of murder is the result of constant incitement against Jews and their state.”

Milquet said anti-terror measures had immediately been heightened as a precaution. “We decided to apply to a maximum level of protection to Jewish sites,” she said.

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor said that, even though it has yet to be established whether the attack was anti-Semitic, “we are acutely aware of the permanent threat to Jewish targets in Belgium and across the whole of Europe.”

“European governments must send out a clear message of zero tolerance toward any manifestation of anti-Semitism,” Kantor said in a statement.

The attack, which took place shortly before 4 p.m., occurred in the Sablon area, which was hosting a three-day jazz festival and is usually clogged with tourists and shoppers on weekends. It has cobblestone streets with numerous antique shops, trendy cafes and museums, including the Jewish Museum.

Police cordoned off several streets around the museum with blue-and-white police tape, and numerous ambulances and police vans were at the scene.

Viviane Teitelbaum, a member of the Brussels legislature, said anti-Semitic attacks reached a peak in the early 1980s but had dropped off, but she noted a recent rise in anti-Jewish sentiment.

“It has been a very difficult place to live” for Jews, she said, adding that many young people are leaving the country. She said some 40,000 Jews live in Belgium, half of whom reside in Brussels.

Some flowers were put close to the site of a shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, Saturday, May 24, 2014.  APSome flowers were put close to the site of a shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, Saturday, May 24, 2014.  AP

Simone Susskind, another Brussels politician, said the museum has been at its current site for around a decade, after moving from an old synagogue in southern Brussels. She said her late husband David was a driving force behind the museum’s creation, believing that as home of the European Union and self-proclaimed “capital of Europe,” Brussels needed a museum to recount the history of Belgium’s Jewish community.

In neighboring France, President Francois Hollande condemned the “horrifying killings with the greatest force.” In a statement, he expressed France’s solidarity with Belgium and offered condolences to the families of the victims.

HIGH ALERT

Security around all Jewish institutions in the country has been raised to the highest level, and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo met with police and senior officials to discuss the situation.

About half of Belgium’s 42,000-strong Jewish community lives in Brussels.

Jewish community officials drew parallels between the shooting and the 2012 killing of four Jews in a school in France by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman, Mohamed Merah.

“This really reminds of what you experienced in France with Mr. Merah attacking a Jewish school,” Maurice Sosnowski, president of the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations, was quoted saying by BFM TV.

“This is appalling. I would never have imagined something like that happening in Brussels.”

He said no threats have been issued to the Jewish community.

 The car of one suspect stands behind barrier tape in Brussels, Belgium, 24 May 2014.  EPA The car of one suspect stands behind barrier tape in Brussels, Belgium, 24 May 2014.  EPA

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder urged Belgian authorities to protect Jewish sites in the country.

“Two years after Toulouse ... this despicable attack is yet another terrible reminder of the kind of threats Europe’s Jews are currently facing.”

On Sunday, Belgium holds a general election and throughout Europe, voters will choose the next European Parliament.

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, who was in the area at the time of the shooting, said witnesses had told him the suspected shooter was carrying bags when he entered the museum.

“I was in the neighborhood. I saw two people on the ground and with other people, we called the emergency services,” he told French BFM TV.

“Witnesses told me that the suspected shooter was carrying bags when he entered the museum so it was urgent for the police to check that nothing had been left inside the museum.”

Police officers work at the area of shooting near the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, 24 May 2014. Police officers work at the area of shooting near the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, 24 May 2014.
Forensic experts examine the site of a shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, Saturday, May 24, 2014.  EPAForensic experts examine the site of a shooting at the Jewish museum in Brussels, Saturday, May 24, 2014.  EPA

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Read Comments (5)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 24, 2014 at 09:46 PM Anonymous Says:

Nebech, nebech.

2

 May 24, 2014 at 10:20 PM Anonymous Says:

You will clearly see that being right under the heavens makes the enemy very agitated. Jewish life is like steel against the force using bad reform for its dreams. Focus on finding Degrees of success. Israel will help pride build. This is a sad day. Torah will always use the negativity of the xenophobe as a stepping stone for the sentence of their own discussion. HY'D. Reasons always form for better futures when the lot of pain is forgotten for the ways of trust.

3

 May 24, 2014 at 10:32 PM PowerUp Says:

2 notes here, first, with his statement , nethanyahu is using this opportunity to get back at the EU for banning settlements products, second, why is a jewish museum open on shaboss?

4

 May 24, 2014 at 11:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
PowerUp Says:

2 notes here, first, with his statement , nethanyahu is using this opportunity to get back at the EU for banning settlements products, second, why is a jewish museum open on shaboss?

It's not a religious institution.

5

 May 25, 2014 at 03:49 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
PowerUp Says:

2 notes here, first, with his statement , nethanyahu is using this opportunity to get back at the EU for banning settlements products, second, why is a jewish museum open on shaboss?

Museums cater to the entire public. If you do not want to go on shabbas, stay home. Its a freedom for opportunity and many non-jews might not see it if not for a saturday event opening. Think before you slam the door on the fingers of trust.

6

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