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LATIN AMERICA | 01-11-2023 16:01

Bolivia cuts ties with Israel over Gaza strikes, Colombia and Chile recall envoys

Bolivia said on Tuesday it was severing diplomatic ties with Israel over its "disproportionate" attacks in Gaza, as Chile and Colombia recall ambassadors over mounting humanitarian crisis.

Bolivia said on Tuesday it was severing diplomatic ties with Israel over its "disproportionate" attacks in Gaza, as two other Latin American countries recalled their ambassadors over the mounting humanitarian crisis.

Bolivia "has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the State of Israel, in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive being carried out in the Gaza Strip," Deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani told a press conference.

Minister of the Presidency Maria Nela Prada also announced the country was sending humanitarian aid to Gaza.

"We demand an end to the attacks" in the Gaza Strip "which have so far caused thousands of civilian deaths and the forced displacement of Palestinians," she said at the same press conference.

The government of leftist leader Luis Arce is the first in Latin America to cut ties with Israel since the divisive conflict erupted with the Hamas attacks on October 7, which Israeli authorities say killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians.


'Surrender to terrorism'

Israel responded on Wednesday by slamming Bolivia's move as "a surrender to terrorism and the regime of the ayatollahs of Iran."

"By taking this step, the Bolivian government aligns itself with the Hamas terrorist organisation, which massacred more than 1,400 Israelis and kidnapped 240 people, including children, women, babies and the elderly," said Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lior Haiat, referring to the toll of the 7 October attack.

Bolivia only announced it was restoring ties with Israel in 2019, a decade after they were cut over previous attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas hailed Bolivia's decision on Tuesday, saying it "holds it in high esteem" while urging Arab countries who have normalised their relations with Israel to do the same.

In their statement, the Bolivian authorities did not mention Hamas' violent assault on Israeli territory.

Before breaking off relations with Israel, President Arce met on Monday with the Palestinian Ambassador in La Paz, Mahmoud Elalwani, to express his rejection of "the war crimes being committed in Gaza" and advocated a territory for the Palestinians without Israeli occupation.

Brazil's President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, has urged a ceasefire.

He said the "terrorist attack" by Palestinian militants against Israel did not justify killing "millions of innocents" in Gaza.

"Just because Hamas committed a terrorist attack against Israel doesn't mean Israel has to kill millions of innocents," he said in a live address on social media.


Colombian, Chilean ambassadors recalled

The leaders of both Colombia and Chile also spoke out Tuesday against the Israeli offensive on Hamas, which the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry says has now killed more than 8,500 Palestinians – two-thirds of them women and children.

"I have decided to recall our ambassador to Israel [Margarita Manjarrez] for consultation. If Israel does not stop the massacre of the Palestinian people, we cannot be there," Colombia's leftist President Gustavo Petro wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Chile, which has the largest Palestinian population outside the Arab world, said Tuesday it was recalling its ambassador to Israel in protest against Israel's "unacceptable violations of international humanitarian law."

"Chile strongly condemns and notes with great concern that these military operations – which at this stage of their development involve collective punishment of the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza – do not respect fundamental norms," the Foreign Ministry in Santiago said in a statement.

Jewish organisations pushed back against the move and highlighted that Chile and Colombia have "a long history of diplomatic disagreements" with Israel.

"While the largest democracies on the planet declare their solidarity with Israel, Petro and Boric condemn it," said Ariel Gelblung, the Wiesenthal Center's director for Latin America.

"They have not expressed sensitivity towards the victims of Hamas and in some cases hold them responsible for their fate. Their prejudices are stronger than their common sense," he added,




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