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Brussels police vigilant amid Israel-Hamas conflict

08:32 11/10/2023

Brussels police say they are remaining vigilant around Israeli and Jewish institutions in the Belgian capital amid the escalating Israel-Hamas conflict.

More patrols will take place in the coming days, chief commissioner Christophe Servais told Bruzz, though he would not provide details for security reasons.

In the meantime, prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) told Le Soir that the threat level around Jewish institutions, such as the Jewish Museum, will not be scaled up for the time being.

The Forum of Jewish Organisations (FJO) and the Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique (CCOJB) held a demonstration of support for Israel on Monday, with approval from authorities, though no additional commemorations are currently planned, according to the Central Israelite Consistory of Belgium (CICB), which represents Belgian Jews.

CICB chairman Philippe Markiewicz told Belga that new peace negotiations are warranted, “but to make peace you have to be two of a kind”.

“Hamas does not want to cooperate on solutions and its goal is to destroy the Israeli state,” Markiewicz said. “No steps towards peace have been taken for years, but Hamas' behaviour today is a total absence of respect for human life.”

No counter-demonstrations in support of Palestine have yet to be requested from Brussels residents, though a small action of around 15 people holding Palestinian flags did take place over the weekend.

Because no approval for that demonstration was requested or granted, participants were fined and their flags were confiscated, police chief commissioner Servais said.

Israeli flags are being displayed in various public spaces in Brussels, including on the European Commission's Berlaymont building.

“Israel has the right to defend itself, today and the days to come – the EU is on Israel's side,” said commission president Ursula Vonder Leyen on social media.

“Hamas terrorists have struck at the heart of Israel, capturing and killing innocent women and children. This violence is neither a political solution nor an act of courage. It is pure terrorism.”

The Israeli flag also hangs at the European Parliament.

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) has also issued a statement regarding the violence between Israel and Hamas.

“VUB condemns in the strongest terms every form of violence in which innocent citizens are the victims,” the statement reads in part.

“We are deeply saddened by recent events in Israel and Palestine, which are causing great loss of life and indescribable suffering for the families and loved ones involved.

"VUB believes in the power of dialogue and peaceful negotiation as the only way to solve conflict and reach lasting peace.

"We call on all parties to step back, refrain from further violence and work together to find a peaceful and fair solution to the conflict in the region.”

Photo: Benoit Doppagne/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons