Forensics experts at the scene of the crime in Brussels

Forensics experts at the scene of the crime in Brussels

Europe suffered a Bank Holiday weekend from hell after a gunman killed four people in Brussels on Saturday, assailants with knuckle-dusters attacked two Jewish brothers in Paris on Sunday and far-right parties won seats across the continent on Monday.

As the dust settled, the Brussels victims were laid to rest, the Parisian pair underwent surgery and Jewish community groups everywhere met to discuss how to tackle the spectre of a resurgent far-right.

As the Jewish News went to press, it was thought that the Brussels gunman – who security experts increasingly thought likely to be a professional killer – was still at large, although there were rumours of arrests.

And as the manhunt continued, members of Hungary’s Jobbik party, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Austria’s Freedom Party and others of a similar ilk prepared to take their seats in the European Parliament.

“We are looking to Europe in dismay,” said Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, noting other recent incidents, including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in Croatia and the threat to Jews in Ukraine.

“We are reminded once more of the attacks in Toulouse, and the growth of neo-fascist parties [in Europe] raising the flag of political anti-Semitism,” added Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt of the Conference of European Rabbis.

A man wipes away a tear during a vigil in front of the entrance of the Jewish museum in Brussels on Sunday. Photo: AP Photo/Yves Logghe.

A man wipes away a tear during a vigil in front of the entrance of the Jewish museum in Brussels on Sunday. Photo: AP Photo/Yves Logghe.

Goldschmidt’s comparison seemed apt, because as with Toulouse in 2012, a lone gunman had once again shot and killed four people at a Jewish site in a major European city.

Israeli tourists Emanuel and Mira Riva, accountants aged 54 and 53, were among the dead – shot in the face and throat by a Kalashnikov at close range, leaving behind two teenage daughters.

A French woman working as a museum volunteer, together with a young male Belgian staff member, were also among the dead.

As many of the city’s 2,000-strong Jewish community held a candlelit vigil on Sunday night, eyewitness Alain Sobotik told how he saw the body of a woman lying on the floor “still holding a leaflet in her hand”.

Israeli leaders were quick to point the finger, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blaming “anti-Israel incitement,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman blaming those “who call to boycott Israel” and Economy Minister saying it was anti-Semites “disguised as anti-Zionists”.

Others concurred. Brussels-based Rabbi David Meyer called it “an anti-Semitic rampage” and cited “a constant increase in verbal and physical attacks and unceasing rhetoric of anti-Jewish speeches from radical groups”.

The Israeli couple, described by friends in Tel Aviv as “patriots,” had spent four years in Berlinon shlichut (an outreach programme) from 2007-2011.

A girl stands next to flowers at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on Sunday. Photo: AP

A girl stands next to flowers at the Jewish Museum in Brussels on Sunday. Photo: AP

However there have been consistent suggestions that the pair had links to Israeli intelligence services, with Mira listed on the city’s Israeli embassy website as an “attaché”. Others quoted unnamed Israeli security sources as confirming that she had been a Mossad agent.

As details emerged, experts noted the chilling professionalism of the assault, which was captured on closed-circuit TV, suggesting that – far from a random, terrorist, anti-Semitic attack – this may have been “a targeted assault”.

That possibility was “strengthened by the video of the killer’s actions,” said security analyst Amir Oren, after viewing the footage.

The gunman – wearing a dark cap, sunglasses and a blue jacket – can be seen entering the building, taking a rifle out of a bag and shooting into a room before calmly walking away.

Experts in Israel and elsewhere said that the manner of the killings suggested planning and execution by a trained specialist.

“He looks like a professional, as if this was a settling of scores,” said Oren. “Not the assassination of accountants, but a battle in a covert war.”

Likewise, Claude Moniquet, a Belgian counter-terrorism expert, said the perpetrator appeared to be a “cold killer, someone who had already seen death and already killed”.

By Wednesday, the gunman had still not been caught, and as rumours of arrests circulated, Belgian authorities gave little away as to any progress they had made on the manhunt.

Mark Gardner, a director at the Community Security Trust (CST), confirmed that the organisation was in “close contact” with Belgian authorities, adding that a member of the CST team went to Brussels to help out in the crisis management centre.

However, he insisted that there was no indication that the attacks would have any impact on the British Jewish community.

Meanwhile, as the Jewish Museum in Camden confirmed that it would stay open, chief executive Abigail Morris said: “This is not just a vile assault on a Jewish museum, but a murderous attack on our friends.”