Two of the four fatalities from the shooting at a Brussels’ Jewish museum on Saturday were an Israeli couple in their 50's from Tel Aviv, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Sunday.
A third fatality was a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, according to an unconfirmed report Saturday night on the news site HLN.be, the online edition of the Het Laatste Nieuws daily. A fourth victim, whom HLN reported was a 23-year-old employee of the museum, was also killed.
Police have no suspects in custody, the news site also reported. Belgian authorities are yet to release the names of those who died in the museum and the fourth person.
The shooter aimed for the victims throats and heads, witnesses told the daily.
According to HLN.be, police no longer suspect a person whom they detained shortly after the attack. That person is currently regarded as a witness, HLN.be reported.
Authorities are looking for the shooter, who was driven to the museum by a suspected accomplice in an Audi car, and the driver and are analyzing security camera footage.
European Jewish leaders are already comparing the shooting to 2012’s massacre at the Ozar HaTorah school in Toulouse, France.
The attack is being approached as racially motivated by Belgian authorities, who posited that it was motivated by anti-Semitism.
Belgium's interior minister, Joëlle Milquet, was quoted as saying by the RTBF Belgian television station that anti-Semitic motives could be behind the attack.
"It's a shooting ... at the Jewish Museum," she was quoted saying. "All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism.”
Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur was quoted by the BBC as stating that the shooting was likely a terror attack and that the choice of location “isn't a coincidence.”
About half of Belgium's 42,000-strong Jewish community lives in Brussels.
A spokesman for the Brussels fire brigade said the shooter drove up to the museum, went inside and fired shots.
"According to the information we have at the moment, it was a solitary shooter and it seems to have happened inside the museum," Pierre Meys, Brussels fire brigade spokesman, told French channel BFM TV.
Security around all Jewish institutions in the country has been raised to the highest level, and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo was meeting with police and senior officials to discuss the situation.
According to the European Jewish Congress, a crisis center organized by the Consistoire Central and the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations (CCOJB) along with other communal leaders has opened and is in contact with local and national authorities.
Speaking with The Jerusalem Post
, Consistoire head Baron Julien Klener said that he had met with the Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and other senior officials and that authorities are “trying to find the suspects.”
Maurice Sosnowski, president of the CCOJB, compared the incident to the 2012 shooting of four Jews in a school in France by an Qaeda-inspired gunman, Mohamed Merah.
"This really reminds of what you experienced in France with Mr. Merah attacking a Jewish school," he 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.
European and international Jewish organizations were quick to compare the two assaults.
“Two years after Toulouse, and on the eve of the European elections, this despicable attack is yet another terrible reminder of the kind of threats Europe’s Jews are currently facing,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said in a statement shortly after the shooting. The attack was “clearly was targeted at Jews.”
“Tomorrow, we must all work together to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. If that means to improve security at Jewish sites in Europe, we have no choice. It must be done. If not, more people may be able to carry out such terrible crimes,” he added.
According to EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor, while details of the attack are still lacking, it is clear that it is indicative of a “permanent threat to Jewish targets in Belgium and across the whole of Europe.”
"This is once again, much like the savage murders in Toulouse, a clear example of where hate and anti-Semitism leads. European government must send out a clear message of zero tolerance towards any manifestation of anti-Semitism."
Kantor recently made waves by stating that without a significant reduction in the fear and insecurity plaguing European Jewry, normative Jewish life on the continent is “unsustainable.”
“Incidents such as this do not occur in a vacuum, and are the direct result of a systematic culture of hate and anti-Semitism against the Jewish community and the State of Israel in so many parts of Europe, including Belgium,” the Israeli Jewish Congress asserted.
A spokesman for the organization pointed out that according to a recent Anti-Defamation League Study, 27 percent of Belgians harbor anti-Semitic sentiments.
According to the ADL, Belgium comes in as the sixty third most anti-Semitic country out of one hundred territories polled around the world.
The shooting comes less than a day before polls open across Europe for elections to the European Union Parliament, with parties on the hard right expected to gain a significant plurality, though far from a majority, of mandates.
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