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Bolivia severing ties with Israel

LA PAZ (AFP) – Bolivia said Tuesday it was severing diplomatic ties with the apartheid state as a rebuke for its bloody offensive in the Gaza Strip after a deadly Hamas attack more than three weeks ago.

The government “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.

(FILES) Bolivia’s President Luis Arce delivers a speech during a ceremony to celebrate the fourteenth anniversary of the Plurinational State of Bolivia at the Casa Grande del Pueblo government palace in La Paz on January 22, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

The government of leftist 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.

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 apartheid state to do the same.

Israel’s foreign ministry did not immediately react to Bolivia’s move.

Several Latin American leaders have spoken out against the offensive, which the Palestine health ministry says has now killed more than 8,500 Palestinians – two-thirds of them women and children.

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

The decision comes after Colombia called for Israel’s ambassador to leave the country before rowing back the comments in a diplomatic spat over the offensive.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio 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.

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