(JTA) As the Ledger went to press on Tuesday, news began pouring in regarding three suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Brussels early in the day, killing at least 34 people and injuring as many as 130. It was the worst terror attack to hit Europe since the Islamic State-organized terror attacks in Paris last November.
The Islamic State – commonly referred to as ISIS — claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to Amaq, a news agency affiliated with the terror group.
“Islamic State fighters carried out a series of bombings with explosive belts and devices on Tuesday, targeting an airport and a central metro station,” the Amaq agency said.
“Islamic State fighters opened fire inside Zaventem Airport, before several of them detonated their explosive belts, as a martyrdom bomber detonated his explosive belt in the Maalbeek metro station.”
Jewish schools and other institutions in Antwerp and Brussels went into lockdown following the attacks, as police advised civilians to remain indoors. Public transportation and flights to and from Zaventem were suspended.
Among the wounded was an Israeli citizen who resides in Antwerp and was in Brussels for a wedding, according to Rabbi Pinchas Kornfeld, a community leader from Antwerp. He sustained injuries to his legs but is not in life-threatening condition, Kornfeld said.
Another Jewish person was moderately wounded, according to Samuel Markowitz, a paramedic for Hatzoloh, a local Jewish emergency services organization. Several dozen Jews were among the hundreds of passengers who were evacuated to a safe area near the airport, he added in an interview with the Joods Actueel Jewish monthly.
Shortly after the attacks, the Antwerp World Diamond Center canceled a Purim party it planned for tomorrow “out of respect for the victims and their families,” the center’s CEO, Ari Epstein, told Joods Actueel. Another Purim party by the European Jewish Association was canceled in Brussels, the group’s director, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said.
The airport attack occurred at 8 a.m. near the American Airlines desk, according to the online edition of Joods Actueel. Kornfeld said many Jewish passengers were traveling between Antwerp, which has a large haredi Orthodox community, and New York.
“It was the right time and place to produce many Jewish casualties,” he said.
Recess was canceled at dozens of Jewish schools in Antwerp and children were instructed to stay inside the buildings, Kornfeld said. Community leaders are discussing the possibility of canceling school tomorrow and Purim street festivities planned for Thursday. Shortly thereafter, similar instructions went out from the Belgian government’s crisis center to all of the country’s schools.
University students were instructed to refrain from coming to campus.
“This is yet another shocking, appalling, and deadly attack on innocent Europeans by terrorists. These attacks on an airport, train system, and outside European Union institutions are shots at the heart of Europe. Our prayers and thoughts are with the Belgian people at these difficult times,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, adding, ”we can no longer ignore the fact that radical Islamists are at war with Europe and all Europeans and we call on our governments and law enforcement agencies to act accordingly.”
Witnesses told Joods Actueel that at the airport, they heard shouts in Arabic, gunshots and a massive explosion.
Netanyahu urges anti-terror unity after Brussels attacks
(JNS.org) Addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference through a live video address on Tuesday,
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged “unity” in the fight to defeat global terrorism amid the unfolding news of that morning’s coordinated terror attacks that killed about 30 people in Brussels.
“This is one continuous assault on all of us,” Netanyahu said. “In all these cases, the terrorists have no resolvable grievances. It’s not as if we can offer them Brussels, or Istanbul, or even the West Bank…because what they seek is our utter destruction and their total domination. Their basic demand is that we should basically disappear. Well my friends, that’s not going to happen. The only way to defeat these terrorists is to join together and fight them together. That’s how we’ll defeat terrorism, with political unity and moral clarity. I think we have that in abundance.”
Calling Israel an “island of liberty” in a sea of instability, Netanyahu said the Jewish state should be “a great cause of liberty that unites Americans” rather than dividing them.
The prime minister said there are two “contradictory trends,” one negative and the other positive, developing with regard to Israel. On the one hand, he said, delegations from various nations are coming to Israel to learn about security, intelligence capabilities, and technology, while Israel has diplomatic relations with an all-time high 161 countries. On the other hand, Netanyahu lamented that Israel is “slandered like no other country on Earth” at the United Nations and is permanently scheduled for condemnation at the U.N. Human Rights Council, while nations like Iran, Syria, and North Korea are not subjected to the same treatment.
Only the U.N., Netanyahu said, would seek to impose an Israeli-Palestinian conflict settlement on Israel while the Palestinians “stab their way to a state.” Netanyahu said he hopes the U.S. maintains “its longstanding position to reject such a U.N. resolution” on Palestinian statehood, and that he was glad to hear presidential candidates from both parties “reaffirm this principle” in their AIPAC conference speeches — that peace will only come through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu affirmed his own commitment to “two states, for two peoples, in which a demilitarized Palestinian state finally recognizes the Jewish state.”
“I know there’s some skepticism about my views on this,” acknowledged the prime minister. He continued, “Here’s the acid test: I’m ready to begin such negotiations immediately, without preconditions. Anytime, anywhere. That’s a fact. But [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas is not ready to do so. That’s also a fact. There’s political will here, in Jerusalem, there’s no political will there, in Ramallah.”
In recent years, Abbas “has refused to talk to me, even for a minute,” Netanyahu said. The PA president’s incitement to violence “has deadly consequences,” he added, proceeding to show the crowd a video of the daily PA pledge of allegiance for youths, which included statements such as “take along a rock at night.”
“I am confident over time that the trend of embracing Israel will overcome the trend of maligning Israel,” Netanyahu said, “because ultimately, freedom beats tyranny, and ultimately, when vigorously defended, truth beats lies.”
New app to allow Israelis to send video footage to emergency responders
(JNS.org) A new app that allows Israelis to make live video distress calls to emergency responders from their smartphones has been developed by a start-up named Reporty, which is chaired by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
The app, launched nationwide on March 16, allows emergency operators to view a scene live on video, chat with callers via text messages, and determine the locations of those in distress both indoors and outdoors. The app is expected to be particularly useful in the midst of an ongoing wave of Palestinian stabbing and car-ramming attacks against Israelis in recent months. Barak, who invested $1 million into Reporty, said he joined the initiative recognizing “that it is an important application with an excellent team.”
“From my personal experience I have seen that this is essential,” Barak said Wednesday at the launch of the app, according to Israel Hayom.
“At a time when the reality is so challenging, when terrorism and violence do not spare any country in the world, and at the same time people feel a growing need to be connected all the time, there is room for a comprehensive solution that will allow people to feel safe and connected. Reporty’s platform allows organizations and authorities to mobilize quickly and respond to terror attacks in real time, while minimizing the misuse of time and resources,” Barak said.