Development minister says more Belgians can leave Gaza in coming days

Belgium's Development Cooperation minister, Caroline Gennez, expects more Belgians to be able to leave Gaza in the coming days, she told Radio 1 on Thursday. A total of 175 Belgians and close relatives are in Gaza.

On Wednesday, several hundred people with foreign passports were able to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt. Among them was Belgian MSF worker Matthias Kennes. Although Belgium was not on the list of countries from which dual nationals were allowed to leave Gaza, Gennez now says it has been added. This means that the 175 Belgians and their close relatives in Gaza will, in principle, be allowed to leave.

Safe crossing

Gennez says that "today and in the coming days", more Belgians will have the chance to leave Gaza, although they "must be able to reach the crossing safely". "There are constant bombings on the road to Rafah. Not everyone wants to leave Gaza, for example, because other family members do not have permission to depart.

"Israel has the right to defend itself and to destroy Hamas, but not to inflict collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza"

Gennez condemned the way Israel carries out its attacks on Gaza. "Israel has the right to defend itself and to destroy Hamas, but not to inflict collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza," she says.

She referred to a "grave violation of international law" and said she hopes that a number of countries, such as the US and Germany, will join UN secretary-general António Guterres in his appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire and unhindered access for aid workers.

Gennez says the diplomatic route should be taken first, but as Israel appears to be "very intransigent", at some point "counter-measures" will have to be explored.



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