BRUSSELS — Europe faces a “huge risk of terrorist attacks" over the Christmas holiday period due to the fallout from the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the European Union's home affairs commissioner warned Tuesday.
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 tourist to death and injuring two other people 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," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters.
"We saw (it happening) recently in Paris, unfortunately we have seen it earlier as well," she said, as EU interior ministers gathered in Brussels. She provided no details about any police or security information that might have led to her warning.
The fallout from Hamas’ attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, 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, has spread to Europe.
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.
Pressed repeatedly by reporters after the meeting, Johansson said that she drew the threat conclusion herself based on the high security levels in some of the 27 EU member countries and an increase in reports of antisemitic incidents, as well as more hate speech and extremist content online.
“Taking all this together, I do the assessment that yes, the threat is significant,” she said. She declined to offer any security advice to shoppers over the festive season or people going to Christmas markets, saying that this was the responsibility of national governments.
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 told reporters.
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 neighboring countries,” she said.
A 15-year-old boy and an alleged accomplice were accused last week of plotting to blow up a small truck at a Christmas market in the west of Germany in an attack modeled on the methods of the Islamic State group, prosecutors said.