According to AFP, Israel on Sunday (May 25) blamed rising anti-Semitism for a Brussels shooting attack which killed three people, including two Israelis, lashing out at Europe for "hypocrisy" in its attitude to the Jewish state.
As officials confirmed the deaths of two Israelis and a French national in Saturday's attack (May 24) on a Jewish museum in the Belgian capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to hail the Pope Francis for his "determined stance" against anti-Semitism.
"We appreciate the Pope's determined stance against anti-Semitism, especially in light of the growing hatred of Jews that we are witness to in these days," Netanyahu said, hours ahead of the Pontiff's arrival in Israel as part of a three-day Middle East tour.
The afternoon shooting shocked Belgium and drew condemnation from top European leaders, although Brussels said it could not immediately confirm whether it was "a terrorist or anti-Semitic act."
"There are elements in Europe that rush to condemn the construction of a flat in Jerusalem but who do not rush to condemn, or offer only a weak condemnation of the murder of Jews here or in Europe itself," he said, referring to Israel's ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank and in annexed east Jerusalem.
"Even worse, they applaud unity with terror groups like Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel," the PM emphasized.
COMMENT: Mr. Netanyahu praised Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who telephoned to express condolences and update the Israeli leader on the investigation.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the Belgian prime minister for his call and offered to help with the murder inquiry," his office said.
Earlier, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP the two victims were a married couple in their 50s from Tel Aviv who were touring in Belgium.
The attack, which took place in central Brussels, left a fourth person, whose identity was not yet clear, in critical condition.
President Shimon Peres also called upon European leaders to act against "any form of anti-Semitism" which he said was "rearing its head across the continent."
It was the first fatal attack on a Belgian Jewish center since the early 1980s in a country which is home to 40,000 Jews, roughly half of whom live in the capital.