Belgium is planning to end army protection to Jewish institutions in Antwerp, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported. As per the plan, which is not yet finalized, Belgium will cancel military protection offered to the city's synagogues and other Jewish institutions in September.
Israeli mainstream media and other Jewish publications from around the world reported the news, echoing the local community's concerns over Brussels' decision to cancel protection to the Jews who had been targeted multiple times by Islamist terror outfits. "The Jewish community needs more, not less, protection in these difficult times," a panel of Jewish Organizations of Flemish Jews said, JTA reported.
The report says that Brussels' decision to scrap army protection for Jews stems from the government's attempts to cut costs in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, which has killed more than 9000 people in the country.
The decision comes four years after Belgium witnessed its worst terror strike in 2016, which killed more than 30 people and injured over 300. The suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station on March 22 was claimed by the Islamic State (Isis). Belgium had raised its terror threat to the highest level following the coordinated suicide attacks by the Isis terrorists.
The Jewish community in Belgium says that they are in the crosshairs of the Islamic terror operatives. They cite a rise in anti-Semitic and targetted attacks on the Haredi Jewish community in the country. The Haredi are an orthodox Jewish sect that live in Israel, North America and Europe. The global population of Haredi is around 1.8 million.
International security experts have raised concerns over the rising terror threat in Belgium steeming from the possible return of hundreds of jihadi fighters from Syria and Iraq. It has been reported that several of the perpetrators of the 2016 serial bombings had been to Syria to fight for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Islamic Caliphate.
The danger from the returning fighters cannot be underestimated, Laurence Bindner, a founding partner of The JOS Project, told Brussels Times. It's unlikely that the returning Isis mercenaries have renounced their ideology, she says, adding that some of them have been actively recruiting in prison. "Furthermore, they have received external training that can prove to be more lethal than home-grown terrorism ... Conversely, those who don't come back pose a problem in terms of surveillance by security services. Jihadism is not doomed to disappear, but will arguably remain there for decades," she added.
Shariah4Belgium, an Antwerp based Salafist group, had sent nearly 100 jihadist mercenaries to Syria at the height of the Caliphate's power and influence.