Synagogues in Brussels shuttered amid highest state of alert

(JTA) – Synagogues in Brussels were advised to remain shuttered over the weekend after Belgian authorities ordered the country’s capital to remain on the highest state of alert.

The alert level 4 remained in effect into Monday due to the fear of a Paris-style attack. Several of the terrorists in the Paris attacks of Nov. 13, which killed at least 129, had links to Belgium. The alert level was raised after warnings of an “immediate very serious threat,” according to reports.

Some 16 people were detained in 22 raids late Sunday, and five more were arrested in seven home searches on Monday. Police are searching for Belgian national Salah Abdeslam, whose brother reportedly blew himself up in one of the Paris attacks and who is believed to have returned to Brussels from Paris in the hours after the Nov. 13 attacks.

The Jewish Central Consistory of Belgium, the country’s main Jewish umbrella, advised synagogues to close down even for Shabbat, the European Jewish Press reported. The Great Synagogue of Brussels, which also houses the Central Consistory, remained closed, according to the EJP.

Some synagogues reportedly remained open for Shabbat services with additional security in place.

Jewish institutions, including synagogues and schools, were last put on a level 4 alert following a gunman’s attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May 2014 that left four people dead.

The rest of the country remained on a level 3 alert into Monday.

“What we fear is an attack similar to the one in Paris, with several individuals who could possibly launch several attacks at the same time in multiple locations,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel told reporters on Sunday night. Possible targets were malls, city streets and public transport, he added.

Public transportation in Brussels remained closed on Monday, and many people worked from home due to the lack of transportation and child care, since schools also were closed.

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