Brussels attack possible 'targeted' hit on Israelis: report

27th May 2014, Comments 0 comments

The killing of two Israelis by an unknown gunman in Brussels may have been a planned assassination rather than a random act, Israel's Haaretz daily said on Tuesday.

The attack, in which a gunman opened fire at the Jewish museum in the Belgian capital on Saturday, killed three people, including an Israeli couple in their 50s who reportedly had ties to an Israeli government agency.

Writing in Haaretz, defence analyst Amir Oren said that although Miriam and Emmanuel Riva had in the past worked for the government, they were bookkeepers rather than spies.

"Both were accountants who were employed separately by government bodies," he said, describing their tools as "numbers and computers, not cloaks and daggers."

"Still, it's possible that the murder in Brussels was not a hate crime or an anti-Semitic attack, but a targeted assault... a battle in a covert war, though perhaps there was a misidentification of the intended victims."

Belgian investigators on Monday said they were considering a possible terrorist link to the shooting, which also killed a French woman and left a fourth person, a Belgian national, brain dead.

The two bodies arrived in Israel overnight and were to be buried at a cemetery in Tel Aviv at 1400 GMT.

Haaretz said Emmanuel Riva had worked in the finance ministry as well as at an organisation called Nativ which was founded in the 1950s to covertly encourage Jewish education in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and to drive immigration to Israel.

Once accused by the KGB of spying, Nativ falls under the remit of the prime minister's office.

These days, since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Nativ's mission is to encourage immigration to Israel among Russian-speaking Jews living in western Europe, particularly in Germany.

Miriam Riva worked for an unspecified "government agency," the paper said.

"There, and also when she was stationed at one of the agency's missions in Europe, her post was solely administrative."

"She wasn't Mata Hari," it added, referring to the Dutch-born dancer, seductress and spy who was executed by a French firing squad during World War I.

Contacted by AFP, the Israeli defence ministry denied the couple had been in their employ, while the prime minister's office declined to comment on the report.

© 2014 AFP

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