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25 May, 2014 12:13

2 Israeli tourists among victims of Brussels shooting, assailant caught on CCTV

2 Israeli tourists among victims of Brussels shooting, assailant caught on CCTV

Two of three people killed in an attack at the Jewish museum in central Brussels on Saturday were Israeli citizens, confirmed Israel's Foreign Ministry. The attack may be viewed as anti-Semitic terrorist act, say Belgian authorities.

"An Israeli couple in their 50s from Tel Aviv, who were visiting Brussels as tourists, were among the victims," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.

He added that Israeli officials “have confidence in the Belgian authorities, in the justice system and the police to look into this horrible crime.”

According to RTBF and the newspaper Le Soir, the victims were shot in the face and throat.

The bodies of the Israelis, Emanuel and Miriam Riva, will be flown to Israel once the Belgian investigators allow their transportation, reports Haaretz.

Meanwhile, the third victim, a female volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, was a French citizen, according to the official at Belgium’s prosecutor’s office. Belgian outlet Sudinfo.be says that the victim was named Dominique.

The fourth victim, who is still alive, but in an extremely critical condition, is a Belgian citizen, adds the official from the prosecutor’s office. Sudinfo.be reported that his name is Alexandre Strens, a 23-year-old employee of the museum.

Police personnel are seen at the site of a shooting in central Brussels May 24, 2014. (Reuters / Eric Vidal)

There is still little information about the motives of the shooter, said Ine Van Wymersch, a spokeswoman for Brussels Prosecutor’s Office at a news conference. She added that the suspect “probably acted alone, was armed and well prepared.”

"We know that the location, the Jewish Museum in Brussels, makes one think of it being an anti-Semitic attack, but we do not have enough to confirm this is the case," added Van Wymersch.

Earlier, Brussels police said they had detained a suspect, but he was soon released.

Belgian synagogues are currently under armed police guard. The Belgian authorities also called for public help in finding the suspect.

Meanwhile, a witness to the Brussels shooting told RT’s Ruptly video service that when he heard the noise of the first gun shots inside the Jewish museum, he immediately knew something was wrong.

"The shooting continued, so I got away from the window to avoid the possibility of taking a stray bullet. I went quickly to the window again, and I saw a lot of agitation close to the entrance of the museum, and in front of the antique shop near by the museum,” he added.

On Saturday Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet said that though it was too early to call the attack anti-Semitic, given the target "there are strong grounds for presuming so."

"It's a shooting ... at the Jewish Museum ... All of this can lead to suspicions of an act of anti-Semitism," she told the RTBF Belgian television station.

Also on Saturday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly condemned the killings, saying that they were "the result of endless incitement against the Jews and their state."

"Slander and lies against the state of Israel continue to be heard on European soil even as the crimes against humanity and acts of murder being perpetrated in our region are systematically ignored," he added.

Around 42,000 Jews currently reside in Belgium. According to Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) report, in 2012 there were 80 anti-Semitic incidents throughout Belgium, a 23 percent increase over 2011 and an overall increase of 34 percent since 2000.

Two Jews attacked in Paris

Two Jewish men have been attacked Saturday night outside the synagogue in suburb of Creteil commune, Paris. The two men who were brothers were badly hurt and were hospitalized, according to AFP report. They are considered in serious but not life-threatening condition.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve immediately slammed the attack with the “utmost severity,” adding that he had instructed authorities to strengthen security at Jewish sites throughout the country.