SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday welcomed 32 nationals that his government managed to rescue from the Gaza Strip this week following a month of negotiations, receiving them at the Brasilia Air Base after a nearly day-long flight.
The Brazilians crossed the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt on Sunday and were taken to Cairo, where this morning they boarded an Embraer presidential airplane loaned by Lula and traveled to Brazil via Las Palmas, Spain.
Lula greeted passengers with hugs and kisses after their arrival late on Monday evening, offering his support to Brazilians still in or arriving from the Gaza Strip and condemning the killing of civilians in Gaza.
“I have never seen such brutal, inhumane violence against innocent people,” Lula said in a short speech on the tarmac.
The flight was the tenth in an operation launched by the South American country last month to repatriate citizens in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip after a war broke out in the region last month.
Monday’s flight brings the total of those rescued to 1,477 people, including three Bolivians, 11 Palestinians and one Jordanian citizen, as well as 53 pets.
The Gaza Strip has been under bombardment by Israel, which aims to annihilate Hamas, the militant group which runs the Gaza Strip and which attacked Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people.
Gaza medical authorities say more than 11,000 people there have been confirmed killed, with about 40% of them being children.
Lula echoed earlier criticisms of both Hamas for its attack against Israel and Israel for its reaction.
“If Hamas committed an act of terrorism and did what it did, the state of Israel is also committing several acts of terrorism by not taking into account that children are not at war, that women are not at war,” he said.
(Reporting by Peter Siqueira and Gabriel Araujo; Additional reporting by Kylie Madry; Writing by Gabriel Araujo and Brendan O’Boyle; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)