Belgian development agency offices in Gaza destroyed by bomb

Belgian development agency offices in Gaza destroyed by bomb
Credit: Office of Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib

The Gaza offices of the Belgian development agency Enabel were bombed and destroyed by Israeli forces, it emerged on Thursday night on social media.

According to initial reports, no civilians were injured. The agency employed both Belgians and local employees, but the government decided last month to evacuate the 74 local employees.

Belgium has summoned the Israeli Ambassador H.E. Idit Rosenzweig-Abu, following the announcement made on social media by Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib and Development Minister Caroline Gennez.

"Targeting civilian buildings is unacceptable", Foreign Minister Lahbib said on social media. "Together with Caroline Gennez, we are summoning the Israeli Ambassador to clarify the situation."

Images posted with the statement show the building before and after, with the entire apartment complex destroyed following the bombing.

According to the Belga News Agency, the attack is believed to have happened on either Wednesday or Thursday.

The offices were located in a six-story tower in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip. According to the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no Enabel employees were present in the office building at the time of the bombing.

Enabel's work in Palestine provides school infrastructure and education, strengthens local governance, and boosts the private sector through new economic initiatives.

"We are all shocked at Enabel," said Jean van Wetter, the CEO of Belgium's development arm. "As a government agency working for the common good in a framework of international humanitarian law, we cannot accept this."

The bombing came shortly before the House was due to adopt a motion for a resolution on the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

In the Federal Parliament on Friday, the French-speaking Socialist Party (PS) expressed their "outrage" and have called for an urgent convening of the Foreign Affairs Commission.

As part of inquiry, they also want to know why development workers employed by Belgium were refused permission to leave the Gaza Strip with their children once they arrived at the Rafah border crossing.

On Wednesday, Belgium also decided that it will continue to fund the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNWRA), unlike its allies the US, UK, Germany, Canada and Japan.

Allegations were made by Israel that some staff members had been involved in the 7 October attack by Hamas. These allegations are yet be substantiated by evidence provided to the UN and the European Union.

Belgium has urged Israel to share evidence immediately. The government gave this as a partial reason for its continued support for UNWRA while it awaits the results of the internal investigations.

Update: Asked for an explanation about the destruction of the Belgian development office in Gaza, the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs replied on Sunday (4 February) that the incident is still under investigation.

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