Brussels attack hotline staffer fired for denying Israel's existence

A Belgian crisis centre operator handling calls about last week's terrorist attacks has been fired after denying the existence of the State of Israel in a request about the repatriation of hospitalized Israeli victims, local media reported Thursday.

A triple suicide bomb attack at Brussels' international airport and a subway station in the Belgian capital on March 22 left 32 victims dead and wounded a further 340. Two Israeli citizens were lightly injured, according to the country's Foreign Ministry.

Israel proposed flying back at least two of its injured citizens, according to the Joods Actueel news website. To get information on the procedures involved, a volunteer with a Jewish centre in Antwerp phoned the hotline set up by the Belgian crisis centre.

During the phone call, the crisis centre operator repeatedly replaced the word "Israel" with "Palestine." He then said he did not know the State of Israel, but knew about "Jews who have established themselves in Palestine and are occupying territory," Joods Actueel reported.

The crisis centre has apologized for the incident and distanced itself from the comments, according to the Belga news agency.

"It is unacceptable; we regret what happened," spokesman Peter Mertens told Belga. "We have taken measures so this does not happen again."

Later Thursday, the subcontractor running the call centre, IPG, said it had laid off the employee in question.

IPG chief Jac Vermeer said the company wished to apologize to "all those people who could have felt offended by the behaviour of this ex-colleague," Belga wrote.

Last update: Thu, 31/03/2016 - 18:40

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