Belgium welcomes Israel-Hamas deal 'that will free innocent women and children'

Belgium welcomes "the agreement that will free innocent women and children" being held hostage in Gaza, Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib said on X on Wednesday.

"This is a first step to be followed by further actions in accordance with international law. The pause should ensure that humanitarian aid reaches civilians in Gaza," she said.

Hamas and Israel, which have been at war since 7 October, agreed on Tuesday to release hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. A total of 50 Israeli hostages, mostly women and children, will be released during a four- or five-day ceasefire. 

In return, between 150 and 300 Palestinian prisoners will be freed, Israeli media reported. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said fighting would continue after the ceasefire. 

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo will travel to Israel and Palestine with his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sánchez on Wednesday. Spain holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which will be taken over by Belgium in January. 

De Croo and Sánchez want the visit to "express sympathy with the victims of Hamas terror, with the hostages and their families, and with the Palestinian population, which has been hard hit by the military operations in Gaza and the increased violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem". 

They will focus on "the de-escalation of violence, humanitarian access, respect for international humanitarian law and the search for a lasting political solution", they said on Monday. Belgium has been supporting the call for a "humanitarian ceasefire" since 26 October. 


Hadja Lahbib at the arrival of the flight bringing back mainly Belgian residents from Tel Aviv, Israel, at Melsbroek military airport on 15 October 2023 © BELGA PHOTO HANDOUT BELGIAN DEFENCE - ADRIEN MUYLAERT

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