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Repatriation of Belgians from Gaza begins

09:25 07/11/2023

About 20 Belgian citizens were repatriated from Gaza over the weekend, with around 150 remaining, according to Hadja Lahbib, Belgium’s foreign affairs minister.

Those to come home were mostly women, young children and elderly people, RTL reports.

They travelled from Gaza to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing and landed first at Eindhoven airport with Dutch evacuees, before being transported further by bus.

They arrived in Belgium on Saturday evening, the minister said, reportedly extremely tired and traumatised by what they had been through.

Loved ones awaited them at the Neder-Over-Heembeek military hospital and the evacuees expressed relief to be reunited with their families.

“We remain extremely active and mobilised, as we have been able to identify around 150 Belgians and their beneficiaries,” Lahbib said.

“We will do everything we can to enable them to cross the border and get out of Gaza, and we are also working hard to ensure that there is finally a humanitarian ceasefire.

"This is Belgium's position, and it is what we have been defending for several days now. We are calling for the bombs to stop, for the wounded to be able to leave, for foreigners to be able to leave too - and a return to peace negotiations.”

The Palestinian Red Crescent has been ordered by Hamas to temporarily suspend the evacuation of injured citizens from the Gaza Strip to Egypt via the Rafah border crossing, a source within the Egyptian Red Crescent told German news agency DPA on Saturday.

The reason given was the need to first secure the roads for the passage of ambulances, while Israel continues to lay siege to the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the terrorist attack carried out by Hamas on 7 October.

Several hundred wounded foreigners and people with dual nationality had been able to leave Gaza for Egypt since 1 November via the Rafah border crossing.

At least 9,770 people, including 4,800 children and 2,550 women, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since 7 October, according to a death toll from Hamas.

Israeli authorities say at least 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, most of them civilians killed on the same day as the Hamas attack, along with at least 345 Israeli soldiers.

Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons