Jerusalem: Israel on Sunday blamed rising anti-Semitism for a Brussels shooting attack which killed three, including two Israelis, lashing out at Europe for "hypocrisy" in its attitude to the Jewish state.
As officials confirmed two Israelis and a French national had been killed in yesterday`s deadly attack on the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to hail 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 just 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".
But Netanyahu said the attack was a result of "incessant incitement against Israel by different elements in the Middle East and Europe itself," denouncing Europe for what he said was a hypocritical attitude to Israel.
"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," he said, referring to Europe`s welcoming of an intra-Palestinian reconciliation agreement between leaders in the West Bank and the Islamist rulers of Gaza.
"We oppose this hypocrisy, we defy it," he said.
Earlier, 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.
"We have confidence in the Belgian authorities, in the justice system and the police to look into this horrible crime," he said.