Senior EU official warns of terrorism risk in Europe over Christmas

Europe faces a “huge risk of terrorist attacks” over the Christmas holiday period attributable to the continuing fallout from the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the European Union’s home affairs commissioner has warned.

“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,” EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters.

The warning came as French investigators probe a fatal weekend attack near the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Questions were raised about the mental health of the suspect, who swore allegiance to the extremist Islamic State group before stabbing a German-Filipino tourist to death and injuring two other people with a hammer.

“We saw (it happening) recently in Paris, unfortunately we have seen it earlier as well,” she said, as EU interior ministers gathered in Brussels. 

The fallout from Hamas’ attacks in southern Israel on 7 October, which killed about 1,200 people, and the ongoing Israeli military response that health officials in Gaza say has killed at least 15,890 Palestinians, is making waves elsewhere.

In several European capitals in recent weeks, tens of thousands of people have staged pro-Palestinian rallies and also marched in support of Israel and against rising antisemitism.

Johansson, whose brief includes security and immigration, said the European Commission will provide an additional 30 million euros ($32.5 million) to bolster security in vulnerable areas, notably places of worship.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser sent her condolences to France over the weekend attack and said it highlights “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.

Faeser said she had spoken with her counterparts from Austria, Belgium, France, Spain and Sweden about the risks. “Our security agencies are working very closely together. We must keep a particularly close eye on the Islamist threats right now and take action against Islamist propaganda together with neighbouring countries,” she added.