Bolivia severs diplomatic ties with Israel as Chile and Colombia recall their ambassadors

Israeli security forces inspect the damage at a residential building after it was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip, in Ashdod, southern Israel, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Ilan Assayag) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia's government severed diplomatic relations with Israel on Tuesday, accusing it of carrying out “crimes against humanity” in Gaza, and Chile and Colombia recalled their ambassadors to Israel as they criticized the Israeli military offensive against Hamas militants.

Bolivian officials cited the number of Palestinian casualties in Gaza that have resulted from the latest Israel-Hamas war, but made no mention of the Hamas attack on Israel at the start of the conflict.

"Bolivia decided to break diplomatic relations with the state of Israel in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive taking place in the Gaza Strip,” Freddy Mamani, Bolivia’s deputy foreign minister, said at a news conference.

Chile decided to recall its ambassador “in the face of the unacceptable violations of international humanitarian law committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip,” the South American country's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Colombia's president, Gustavo Petro, also announced he was recallinghis country's ambassador to Israel.

“If Israel does not stop the massacre of the Palestinian people, we cannot remain there,” Petro wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Bolivia, Chile and Colombia all have leftist governments.

María Nela Prada, Bolivia's minister of the presidency who is acting foreign minister, accused Israel of “committing crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip against the Palestinian people.”

She went on to call on Israel to “cease attacks in the Gaza Strip that have already resulted in thousands of civilian casualties and the forced displacement of Palestinians.”

Chile also called for “an immediate end to hostilities.” It condemned Israel's operations, saying they "constitute collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza.”

Like Bolivia, Chile made no mention of the Hamas attack on Israel.

Bolivia also said that it “rejects the Israeli hostile treatment of international actors providing humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip,” Prada said, adding that Bolivia will send aid to the Gaza Strip, although she did not detail what that could entail.

Neither Prada nor Mamani mentioned the Hamas attack on Israel, continuing with a pattern for the Bolivian government that never condemned the Oct. 7 assault in which more than 1,400 people were killed in Israel.

On Oct. 7, Bolivia’s Foreign Ministry said only that it had “deep concern over the violent events that occurred in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestine.” On Oct. 18, the Foreign Ministry condemend Israeli attacks and emphasized “our solidarity and unwavering support for the Palestinian people.”

The Gaza Health Ministry says more than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war.

The government of this Andean nation of 12 million, now led by leftist President Luis Arce, has long been critical of Israel, and it previously severed diplomatic ties in 2009 over fighting involving Gaza. Diplomatic relations were reestablished in 2020.

Arce expressed his solidarity with the Palestinian people following a Monday meeting with Palestinian Ambassador to Bolivia Mahmoud Elalwani.

“We cannot remain silent and continue to allow the suffering of the Palestinian people, especially of the children, who have the right to live in peace. We condemn the war crimes being committed in Gaza,” Arce wrote on social media following the meeting.

Bolivia's influential former president, Evo Morales, who was once allied with Arce but has turned against him, celebrated the government's decision to break off relations, although said it did not go far enough.

“Bolivia must declare the state of Israel as a terrorist state and file a complaint with the International Criminal Court,” Morales wrote on social media.

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Politi reported from Buenos Aires, Argentina.