The Government negotiates the evacuation of up to 170 citizens from Gaza after the departure of a second Spaniard | International

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Dozens of citizens wait at the Rafah border crossing to cross into Egypt from the Strip, this Wednesday.HAITHAM IMAD (EFE)

A second Spanish citizen managed to leave Gaza this Thursday. This is Jesús Sánchez, an employee of UNSCO, the United Nations office for the peace process in the Middle East. Sánchez was on the list of 500 international aid workers, members of NGOs and employees of UN agencies with foreign passports that Gaza authorities made public on Wednesday. There was also the Valencian anesthetist from Doctors Without Borders Raúl Incertis, who left the Palestinian territory on Wednesday. While the latter managed to cross the Rafah border crossing and arrive in Egypt that same day, the second did not do so until Thursday. Beyond these gradual exits, the Spanish Government, like the other countries with citizens trapped in the Strip, are negotiating their evacuation with Egypt and Israel.

The Consulate General of Spain in Jerusalem has a list of 140 citizens with Spanish passports trapped in Gaza since Hamas launched its attack against Israel on October 7, and the Israeli army imposed a siege on the Strip two days later. Most of them have dual nationality, Spanish and Palestinian, and have expressed their desire to leave. The figure could be increased to around 170 with the inclusion of family members.

The Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, stated on Thursday that this group of Spaniards and their families could be evacuated in the next 48 hours. Once the Gaza Interior Ministry, under Hamas control, had authorized the departure of foreigners from the Strip, Israeli and Egyptian authorities were informing the affected countries, she Robles added.

Air evacuation

“Everything is ready there to go look for the Spaniards between today or tomorrow,” the minister told journalists at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base (Madrid). The Spanish Embassy in Cairo has prepared a reception team and the Air Force has an Airbus 330 plane ready to go pick them up in Egypt, as it did on October 11 and 12 with 429 citizens of different nationalities (334 of them Spanish ) who were on a tourist or business trip to Israel and were stranded due to the suspension of commercial flights. “If it is necessary to carry out an air evacuation, this will be done,” the minister stressed.

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Diplomatic sources are very cautious regarding the moment in which the evacuation of the group can proceed, since the situation inside the Strip is very difficult (the road that connects the north and the south has been badly damaged, there is shortage of fuel and at no time have the bombings been interrupted) and the crossing of the Rafah pass is very complicated. Proof of this, they allege, is that the second Spaniard who managed to leave the strip did so 24 hours later than expected.

A total of 342 citizens with foreign passports managed to leave Gaza this Thursday, on the second day of opening of the Rafah crossing, along with another 21 wounded, which brings the number of evacuees in 48 hours to almost 700 foreigners and a hundred wounded. The same step is used for the entry of humanitarian aid, although on a much smaller scale than what was usual before the current war escalation began and very far from the needs of the population. Spain has increased its humanitarian aid to Palestine from 17 to 21 million euros and has committed to doubling it in the coming days, to exceed 40 million.

Although the Spanish Government advocated a ceasefire to protect the civilian population of Gaza, the EU agreed to limit itself to asking Israel for temporary pauses to facilitate access for humanitarian aid. Spain has also offered to host a future Middle East Peace Conference similar to the one that took place in Madrid in 1991. But the idea, beyond the support of the EU, has not found an echo among the main actors in the conflict.

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