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.
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 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.
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.
Having been raised with a very cause/effect relationship,
“nachp’sah dracheinu…. v’nashuva el Hashem”, I can’t help thinking and voicing the seeming irony – perhaps we should be asking ourselves if this is not Hashem’s response to the Jewish Museum being open on the Holy Shabbos??? And is it not a fitting punishment for the offense?
We should be listening to our messages.
Hashem is in control! He could have made this happen any day of the week.
I’m not trying to downplay this horrible attack, but what is a Jewish museum doing open on Shabbos?
A Jewish museum open on the holy Shabbos? They publicly deny that Hashem created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. What do they expect?
Bubby, you sound like a child rather then a bubby! Keep you cheshbonos of hashems checks and balances to yourself . No one is interested in theories . Yes we all have to do the proper thing however understanding hashems ways are against the Torah!
what a sick comment
and to bubby b
who are you to play gd and say its a fitting punishment
both of you are sick
stop judging others and work on yourself
Bubby #1 and lkwdmama #2:
According to the Times of Israel, the museum is run by the Brussels municipality, not by the Jewish community and that’s why it’s open on Shabbos.
Instead of asking such questions and speculating, it would be far wise to remain quiet and wait to hear the answers.
Why do you assume that Hashem can only punish through death? Couldn’t He cause a fire to break out or financial troubles? Many terror attacks have happened on Shabbos or Yom Tov…obviously a Jewish Museum should be closed on Shabbos, but maybe it also functions as a shul on Shabbos?
I would wait for our gedolim to inform us why things like these happen before lay people like us do.
You have no right to speculate about the ‘reason’ this terrible tragedy occurred.
Our religion, and our G-D, is slightly more complicated than our childish theories of immediate divine retribution.
What we can do is mourn with the families, and reflect upon whether there is still a future for Jews outside of Israel.
#2- it’s obviously not a shomer Shabbos museum !!
wow, bubby b (and a little bit lkwdmamma), what a horrible reaction to this story you have.
Mama and Buba, stop blaming the victim.
I was positive that there would be comments about the fact that the museum was open on Shabbos, implying (and stating outright) that these people died because they were there on Shabbos.
First, did you (#s 1 and 2) stop to think that maybe these people did not have the privilege of learning about the importance of Shabbos the way you did? Is it possible that they were brought up in homes where Shabbos meant nothing? If so, do you expect them to understand why they should not be in a museum on Shabbos?
Second, your statement “And is it not a fitting punishment for the offense?” is way out of line. If you can so clearly see cause and effect, perhaps you can tell me the cause of the death of the little boy that died from a fall out the window in Crown Heights last week? Or the multitude of tragic deaths we have read about over the years.
These are issues that only HKB”H can answer. Not you or I. “Nachp’sa d’racheinu” means our own PERSONAL behavior. When tragedy strikes home C”V, then ask yourself if perhaps YOUR behavior needs modification. To say that about others, is simply offensive.