Brazil's Workers Party slams Israel for holding Brazilians in Gaza

FILE PHOTO: President of the Workers' Party Gleisi Hoffmann looks on during a news conference in Brasilia

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazil's ruling Workers Party criticized the Israeli government on Friday for not allowing 34 Brazilians to leave Gaza, saying Israel is playing favorites when deciding who should be allowed to evacuate the besieged Palestinian territory.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen told his Brazilian counterpart Brazil's nationals would leave Gaza by Wednesday, a Brazilian foreign ministry spokesman said late on Friday.

In three days since the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened to allow nationals of other countries to leave Gaza, Brazilians waiting to leave were not on the list approved by Israel, despite diplomatic efforts to include them.

"For the third time, the Israeli government denied the departure of Brazilian citizens threatened by the massacre against the civilian population in the Gaza strip," Workers Party president Gleisi Hoffmann said in a social media post.

She said the Israeli government has not provided any explanation for what she said was discrimination. Brazil tried to find a negotiated solution to the conflict when it presided over the U.N. Security Council in October, Hoffmann said.

"Unfortunately, the Israeli government signals that it has established a political hierarchy for the release of civilians, favoring some countries over others," Hoffmann said.

"We cannot allow that Brazilian civilians remain threatened in a region under military massacre," she added.

Hundreds of foreign passport holders and gravely injured Palestinians have been evacuated from Gaza via the Rafah crossing to Egypt since Wednesday in a deal brokered by Qatar between Egypt, Israel and Hamas, in coordination with the U.S.

Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, which rules Gaza, after the militant group killed 1,400 people and took more than 240 hostages in an Oct. 7 assault in southern Israel. Gaza health officials said on Saturday that more than 9,488 Palestinians have been killed so far in the Israeli assault.

A diplomatic source briefed on Egyptian plans said some 7,500 foreign passport holders would be evacuated over two weeks.

Brazilian officials said they have no explanation for the failure to let their citizens out of Gaza. Some local media have speculated it is due to positions taken by Brazil at the United Nations and comments by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula has criticized the "terrorism" of Hamas that started the war, but he has also criticized Israel for its "insane" bombardment of Gaza that has killed hundreds of children.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Rod Nickel and Diane Craft)