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Colombia cuts diplomatic ties with Israel

President Gustavo Petro tells May Day rally that Israel's war on Gaza is 'genocidal' and 'if Palestine dies, humanity dies'
Colombian President Gustavo Petro addresses a May Day rally in Bogotá, 1 May 2024 (AFP)

Colombian President Gustavo Petro has announced that his government will sever diplomatic ties with Israel

Speaking at a May Day rally in Bogotá on Wednesday, Petro described Israel’s war on Gaza as “genocidal” and said the world must not accept the “extermination of an entire people”.

“Tomorrow [Thursday], diplomatic relations with the state of Israel will be severed, because of them having a government, for having a president that is genocidal,” said the Colombian president, a fierce critic of Israel’s war. 

It is thought that Petro was referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than President Isaac Herzog.

“I believe that today all of humanity in the streets, by the millions, agrees with us and we agree with them,” Petro, Colombia’s first left-wing president, told the crowd.

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“If Palestine dies, humanity dies, and we will not let it die, as we will not let humanity die,” he said, to cheers and applause from the rally. 

According to AFP, Israel responded by describing Petro as “antisemitic and hateful”, saying his stance amounted to a reward to Hamas. 

“The Colombian president has promised to reward Hamas murderers and rapists - and today he delivered,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a social media post.

“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. 

Hamas led the 7 October attacks on Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel. Since then, Israel’s war on Gaza has killed at least 34,568 people in the Palestinian enclave, according to Gaza’s health ministry. 

Petro’s move was hailed by Hamas as a “victory”, AFP reported.

“We greatly appreciate the position of Colombian President Gustavo Petro... which we consider a victory for the sacrifices of our people and their just cause,” Hamas said in a statement, urging other Latin American countries to follow suit.

Bolivia, Belize and South Africa have severed or suspended ties with Israel over the war in Gaza, while several other countries have recalled their diplomats.

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