An 18-year-old teenager among the 203 hostages taken by Hamas during their bloody raids in southern Israel earlier this month has been given fast-track Dutch nationality, according to media reports.
Ofir Engel was taken from the Be’eri kibbutz where he was visiting his girlfriend. The kibbutz is just a few kilometres from Gaza and is one of the first villages attacked by Hamas militants.
The teenager was born in Israel and lives on another kibbutz near Jerusalem, but has been given Dutch nationality via his grandfather, family members have said.
They hope this will encourage the Dutch government to put pressure on Hamas to release the boy and that his kidnappers may be more inclined to release dual nationals.
Questions have been asked about the procedures used to give the youngster Dutch nationality, because he would not qualify under normal rules. Nationality cannot be passed from grandfather to grandson, for example. There are also strict rules about residency.
Former Dutch diplomat Ed Kronenburg told the AD the youth may even be unaware that he now has Dutch nationality. He also questioned the speed at which the naturalisation process had been carried out.
“He cannot possibly have a Dutch passport because it needs a signature,” Kronenburg said. “This is an extremely unusual situation.”
Grandfather Jossef Avi Yair Engel told the Volkskrant that they had already been visited by the Dutch ambassador to Israel. ‘They are trying to help,” he said. “But Hamas is not a country and you don’t know who you are talking to or what they want. Apart from to kill all Jews.”
The Dutch foreign ministry told the paper it is “aware” of the case but declined to go into details in the interests of the boy’s safety. “If someone has Dutch nationality, we see them as a Dutch person,” a spokesman said.
According to the AD, Ofir speaks Dutch and has visited relatives in Gelderland several times.
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