Trapped Brazilians, whose fate hurt Israel-Brazil ties, leave Gaza

By Camila Moreira

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Nearly three dozen Brazilians who had been trapped inside Gaza for weeks, and whose predicament had driven a diplomatic wedge between Brasilia and Israel, crossed the border into Egypt on Sunday, the foreign ministry said.

"The group of 32 Brazilians and families are already in Egyptian territory, where they were received by a team from the Brazilian embassy in Cairo, which is responsible for the final step of the repatriation operation," the foreign ministry wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The Brazilians are due back in Brazil late on Monday evening, the ministry said, and are expected to meet with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Two of the group decided to stay for personal reasons, it said. In total, 17 children, nine women and six men exited via the Rafah crossing, through which foreign nationals and aid have been transported back and forth into Gaza.

The Palestinian enclave has been under bombardment by Israel, which aims to destroy Hamas militants who attacked Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7.

The slow pace of release of the trapped Brazilians increased friction between Brazil and Israel, which erupted last week after Israeli spy agency Mossad said it helped foil a Hezbollah attack in Brazil. An appearance by Israel's ambassador to Brazil with former President Jair Bolsonaro, a staunch Israel ally and longtime Lula political foe, also irked Brazilian officials.

(Reporting by Camila Moreira; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; editing by Grant McCool)