Belgium defense ministry denies soldiers guarding Brussels synagogues had no bullets

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Belgium’s defense ministry denied reports that some soldiers had guarded synagogues in Brussels without ammunition in their rifles.

The denial last week by the press department of Belgium’s Ministry of Defense was in reaction to a claim that a senior Brussels rabbi, Menachem Hadad of the Shomre Hadas haredi Orthodox community, made on March 24 following a series of terrorist attacks on March 22 that killed 32 people in the Belgian capital.

“The authorities here, and I won’t speak ill of them, but they have no understanding of security issues – zero,” Hadad said in a March 24 interview with Israel’s Army Radio. “For example, for months we had soldiers guarding the Beit Chabad and the synagogue and we spoke to them and some had no ammunition for their rifles. They had no bullets. It was just a show. It’s not normal.”

Queried by JTA for its reaction to the claim, a ministry spokesperson replied via email that “since January 2015 the defense ministry aids the federal police in protecting certain areas. To do this, soldiers receive standard equipment necessary for operational intervention, including weapons and ammunition.”

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The unnamed spokesperson further wrote the ministry will not elaborate on its rules of engagement “for security reasons.”

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