Around 40 Spanish citizens have left Gaza, foreign minister says

MADRID (Reuters) - A group of around 40 Spanish citizens were evacuated from Gaza on Monday through the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, Spanish acting Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said.

They are part of a group of between 140 and 170 Spaniards and members of their families, some with dual citizenship, who had asked to be evacuated.

"I confirm that 33 Spanish-Palestinians to be precise and 7 family members have already crossed the Egyptian checkpoint at the border between Gaza and Egypt at Rafah," Albares said in a press briefing.

He added that the group was already on buses and accompanied by Spanish embassy staff and on their way to Cairo.

Albares also said that Spain had received authorisation from Israel for a second contingent of around 80 people to leave Gaza on Tuesday.

Israel launched its campaign last month against Hamas, the militant group which runs the Gaza Strip, after Hamas fighters rampaged through southern Israel killing civilians.

Around 1,200 people died and 240 were dragged to Gaza as hostages according to Israel's tally, in the deadliest day in the country's 75-year history.

Since then thousands of Gazans have been killed and more than half of the population made homeless by a relentless Israeli military campaign. Gaza medical authorities say more than 11,000 people have been confirmed killed, around 40% of them children.

The crossing between Gaza and Egypt opened on Nov. 1 as part of a Qatar-brokered deal between Israel, Egypt, Hamas and the United States, to let some foreign passport holders and some wounded Gazans, out of the besieged enclave.

Hundreds of foreign nationals and dependents, and dozens of injured have since passed through the border crossing, which is the only entry point to Gaza not controlled by Israel.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo; additional reporting by Jesús Aguado; Editing by Sandra Maler)