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THE HAGUE: A group of Dutch civil servants staged an unusual protest in front of the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Thursday to call for a ceasefire in war-torn Gaza.

Around 150 ministerial workers held up placards and unfurled a banner reading “Civil Servants Demand Ceasefire” over lunchtime, saying they were protesting the government’s current stance on the call for an end to hostilities.

“There’s concern over the fact that the Dutch government is still not calling for a permanent ceasefire and that is in essence why we’re here today,” said Angelique Eijpe, spokeswoman for the group.

Eijpe told AFP she resigned from Foreign Affairs last month over the continued Dutch position in the conflict. The conflict erupted on October 7 when Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, with Israel retaliating by pounding the area with its heaviest-ever bombardment. The Netherlands, like Germany and Italy, last week abstained from voting for a ceasefire during a UN General Assembly meet, despite an overwhelming number of countries voting in favour.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot afterwards said the abstention resulted from the text of the resolution “not being clear enough” on Israel’s right to defend itself — and it did not refer to the October 7 attack by Hamas. But some civil servants disagreed with the Dutch position, staging the protest which lasted about half-an-hour.

Although protests often happen in the Netherlands, it is rare for civil servants to make their voices heard contrary to official policy.

“We are here because we disagree with the Netherlands’ stance on the ceasefire issue,” said protester Jesse Jansen, 34.

“We cannot just stand by and watch which while international and humanitarian law are being violated,” he told AFP.

Some 200 civil servants in October wrote letters to the Dutch cabinet asking it to call on Israel to halt the Gaza bombardment “and to protect innocent civilians.”

Support for a ceasefire call has been growing in the Netherlands, with almost two-thirds of Dutch people interviewed being in favour, a poll by the RTL public broadcaster said on Tuesday.

“Most people do not take sides in the conflict: sympathy for the Palestinian people is just as great as for the Israeli people,” the RTL poll added. But Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yesilgoz has criticised the civil servants’ letters, saying “the political leadership determines the policy line, not the other way around.”

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