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Friday, February 16, 2024

EU warns of Christmas terror attacks

The fallout from the Israel-Hamas war has increased security risks, a commissioner official has said

The European Union (EU) faces a “huge risk” of terrorist attacks over the Christmas holiday period in a society increasingly polarized by the Israel-Hamas war, the bloc’s home affairs commissioner has said.

The warning, issued by EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, comes days after a German-Filipino tourist was fatally stabbed in Paris. The suspect, a 26-year-old Frenchman who reportedly comes from a non-religious Iranian family, is said to have made reference to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) group during the attack. Two other people also sustained injuries after being struck with a hammer.

“With the war between Israel and Hamas, and the polarization it causes in our society, with the upcoming holiday season, there is a huge risk of terrorist attacks in the European Union,” Johansson told reporters on Tuesday ahead of meeting with EU interior ministers in Brussels.

“We saw it recently in Paris; unfortunately, we have seen it earlier as well,” she added.

Johansson, who also said that the EU has earmarked an additional €30 million ($32.3 million) in security spending, did not elaborate on if her comments were based on any specific intelligence warnings.

The fallout from Hamas’ October 7 cross-border attack – as well as Israel’s subsequent retaliatory bombardment – has echoed through Europe for much of the past two months. Several European capitals have seen mass pro-Palestinian demonstrations, as well as marches in support of Israel amid what is seen by some as rising anti-Semitism across Europe.

The attack on Israel killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, Israeli officials said. So far, more than 15,800 people have been killed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza, according to health officials in the besieged enclave.

Johansson’s comments were underscored by Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, who told reporters, also on Tuesday in Brussels, that the recent Paris incident shows “just how acute and how serious the threat posed by Islamist terrorism is currently in the EU.”

“The war in Gaza and Hamas’ terror are exacerbating this situation,” she said, adding that she had discussed the issue of rising terror threats with her counterparts in Austria, Belgium, France, Spain, and Sweden.

“We must keep a particularly close eye on the Islamist threats right now and take action against Islamist propaganda with neighboring countries,” Faeser said.

Germany is also on an elevated alert for a possible terrorist attack. Last week, two teenagers – aged 16 and 15 – were arrested for allegedly planning to attack “infidels” and had targeted a synagogue and a Christmas market, officials said, according to media reports.