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The Gaza War: Amid acrimony, Colombia cuts ties with Israel

The Gaza War: Amid acrimony, Colombia cuts ties with Israel

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: South American country Colombia on Wednesday severed all ties with Israel, blaming its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the “genocidal war” in Gaza.

Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first leftist President since 2022, said his country will sever diplomatic ties with Israel, the media reported.
“Tomorrow (Thursday) diplomatic relations with the state of Israel will be severed… for having a genocidal president,” Petro told a May Day rally in the Colombian capital Bogota, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Petro has been a harsh critic of the assault on Gaza that followed an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, resulting in the deaths of some 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures. Hamas terrorists also took about 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 Israel says are presumed dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has since killed at least 34,568 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

On Wednesday, Petro told thousands of supporters in Bogota that the world cannot accept “genocide, the extermination of an entire people.”
“If Palestine dies, humanity dies,” he said to loud applause from the crowd, some of whom waved pro-Palestinian banners.

Israel responded by describing Petro as “anti-Semitic and hateful” and saying his stance amounted to handing a reward to Hamas.

“The Colombian President has promised to reward Hamas murderers and rapists — and today he delivered,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said on X (formerly Twitter).

“History will remember that Gustavo Petro decided to stand by the most despicable monsters humanity has known, who burned babies, murdered children, raped women, and kidnapped innocent civilians,” Katz added.

In October, days after the start of the war, Israel announced it was “halting security exports” to Colombia after Petro accused Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of using language about the people of Gaza similar to what the “Nazis said of the Jews.”

Israel at the time accused Petro of “expressing support for the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists, fueling anti-Semitism,” and summoned Colombia’s ambassador.

Bogota subsequently demanded that Israel’s envoy leave Colombia.

Petro also asserted that “democratic peoples cannot allow Nazism to reestablish itself in international politics.”

In February, he suspended Israeli weapons purchases after dozens of people died in a scramble for food aid in the war-torn Palestinian territory — an event he said was “called genocide and recalls the Holocaust.”

Colombia’s armed forces, engaged in a decades-long conflict with leftist guerrillas, rightwing paramilitaries, and drug cartels, use Israeli-made weapons and aircraft. The country has a history of strong diplomatic and military relations with Israel and the United States.

Petro supported Brazil’s leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who also drew the ire of Israel by saying its Gaza campaign “isn’t a war, it’s a genocide.”

Colombia and Brazil also supported South Africa’s complaint against Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICC) in The Hague, alleging the Gaza assault amounted to a breach of the Genocide Convention.


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