Following their meeting with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi earlier on Friday, Pedro Sánchez and Alexander De Croo visited the Rafah crossing to express calls for a ceasefire. The visit came shortly before the release of Israeli and Palestinian captives by Hamas and Israel.
“A permanent ceasefire is the goal. We will be heading to the Rafah access point today. We are calling for more access to humanitarian supplies to Gaza,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also called the situation in Gaza “a humanitarian catastrophe” and that “humanitarian aid must be delivered in a steady manner.”
Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s orders, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called for a reprimand meeting with the ambassadors of Belgium and Spain due to remarks made by their Prime Ministers at the Rafah crossing.
“We denounce the misleading assertions made by the Belgian and Spanish prime ministers, who encourage terrorism,” said Cohen in a statement.
“Israel is fighting a deadly terrorist group that is more violent than ISIS and that commits crimes against humanity and war crimes while operating in accordance with international law.”
Earlier this month, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister called for sanctions against Israel and urged the European Union to immediately suspend its association agreement with Israel.
THE CONFLICT SO FAR
After a surprise attack conducted on 7 October by Hamas on a number of southern Israeli towns which resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,200 people and more than 220 being taken hostage by Hamas, Israel launched a retaliatory bombing campaign against what it describes as ‘terrorist targets’ in the Gaza Strip.
At least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip — including at least 5,500 children — and over 32,000 others injured. Meanwhile, at least 225 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and more than 2,700 injured. The death toll is no longer being regularly updated due to the collapse of the enclave’s health system.
Israel and Hamas reached an agreement on 22 November, announcing a four-day cessation of hostilities to facilitate the release of 50 hostages held in Gaza, 150 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel, and the entry of humanitarian aid.
During an event in support of Palestine at Cairo International Stadium, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said the forced relocation of Palestinians is a “red line” for Egypt, and it will not be accepted.
The priority of the Egyptian government since the beginning of the conflict has been de-escalation and the securing of a path for aid to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing.