A Belgian crisis centre operator handling calls about last week's terrorist attacks denied the existence of the State of Israel in a conversation 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 since apologized for the incident and distanced itself from the comments, noting that these went against the values it defends, the Belga news agency reported.
"It is unacceptable; we regret what happened," spokesman Peter Mertens told Belga. "We have taken measures so this does not happen again."