Brussels synagogue fire was arson, watchdog says


(JTA) — A fire that broke out at a synagogue near Brussels was the result of arson, a Belgian watchdog said.

Three people had to be treated for inhaling smoke on Tuesday at the synagogue on de la Clinique Street in Anderlecht, one of the municipalities that make up the Brussels region, the Belgian League Against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA, wrote in a statement. Unknown individuals deliberately set fire to four places so it would catch, according to the report.

LBCA President Joel Rubinfeld wrote that Belgian police confirmed they believed the fire was the result of criminal activity.

The synagogue fire followed an anti-Semitic incident on Sunday at the National Memorial Site for Jewish Victims of the Holocaust in Belgium, also in Anderlecht.

Several people hurled large stones and a bottle at the monument. Several dozen people were standing near the monument, which they visited as part of the events of European Day of Jewish Culture, LBCA reported.

Hours earlier, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo in an address at the reopening of the Jewish Museum of Belgium in central Brussels had vowed to punish perpetrators of anti-Semitic crimes. The museum had been closed since a May 24 shooting there killed four people.

“The increase of anti-Semitic acts in Belgium in recent months underlines the urgency connected to integrating the fight against anti-Semitism into the government’s plan of action for the future,” Rubinfeld said. “More than ever before, fighting anti-Semitism must truly become a national cause. At stake is our country’s honor and probably its future.”

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