Police on Thursday shot dead two suspects in eastern Belgium as they were about to launch “large-scale” attacks in the country after returning from Syria, prosecutors said.
They said a third suspect was arrested in the eastern town of Verviers and that the police had carried about 10 raids in all, including in the capital Brussels, after surveillance suggested an attack was imminent.
Belgian officials said that there was no known link at this stage between the Belgium plot and a series of deadly attacks in Paris last week.
Jewish schools in Brussels and Antwerp canceled classes Friday, the Ynet news site reported.
The incident comes as Europe is on high alert after 17 people were killed in Islamist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, a policewoman and a Jewish supermarket in Paris last week.
“An operation is under way,” a source in the mayor’s office told AFP without giving further details.Another official said separately that the incident in Verviers, which is close to the German border some 125 kilometers (70 miles) from Brussels, was “jihadist-related.”
In May 2014, four people were shot dead in a suspected Islamist attack at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, who had previously been in Syria, has been charged with murder.
The men targeted in Verviers were under surveillance having returning from Syria a week ago, Belgian media reported.
Intelligence indicated they were planning an attack, the reports said.
Prosecutors were due to give a press conference at 1900 GMT.
Several reports said a series of other anti-terror raids were under way across Belgium, including in the capital Brussels, where the European Union is headquartered.
Key Mideast mediators — the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — will meet this month to discuss the way toward Israeli-Palestinian peace as tensions escalate in the decades-old conflict.US Ambassador Samantha Power made the announcement during the UN Security Council’s monthly Mideast debate, calling the status quo “unsustainable.” She urged both sides “to exercise maximum restraint and avoid steps that threaten to push Israeli-Palestinian relations into a cycle of further escalation.”
The meeting of envoys from the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators will be January 26 in Brussels, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
It follows the council’s recent rejection of a Palestinian-backed resolution demanding an end to Israeli occupation within three years and the Palestinians’ subsequent decision to join the International Criminal Court. Relations also remain fraught following last summer’s 50-day Gaza war between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the earlier failure of US-brokered peace talks.
Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the Security Council that the Quartet, at ministerial level, “should be promptly reinvigorated.”
Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz, the current council president, said “a lot more” international engagement is needed including the Quartet, the Arab League and others.
The Palestinians have made clear that they oppose further direct negotiations with Israel mediated by the US, saying 20 years of such talks have not produced results.
“We are willing to negotiate, but now in a different way, through an international conference or a collective process,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, told a group of reporters last week.
The perilous state of Israeli-Palestinian relations was evident at Thursday’s meeting.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of remaining “committed to the three no’s. He will not negotiate, he will not recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and he will not make peace.” He accused the Palestinian Authority of committing “every form of diplomatic treachery” last year by abandoning peace talks, forming a government with Hamas, honoring “convicted terrorists” and breaking its word by signing up to join dozens of treaties and conventions including the ICC.
The United Nations on Thursday called on Israel to unlock millions of dollars in taxes owed to the Palestinian Authority that were withheld after it decided to join the International Criminal Court.
A senior UN official told the UN Security Council that the freeze of about $127 million imposed on January 3 was in violation of the Oslo peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We call on Israel to immediately resume the transfer of tax revenues,” said UN Assistant Secretary-General Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen.
The United States and the European Union have criticized Israel’s retaliatory move in response to the Palestinian application to join the ICC, which could investigate war crimes complaints against Israel.
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