Hugo Chavez Kicks Out Israeli Ambassador Over Gaza Offensive

Venezuela recetly expelled the Israeli ambassador from the country in protest over the offensive currently underway in the Hamas controlled Gaza strip. The move by President Hugo Chavez to kick out the diplomat has been the most drastic reaction to the attack on Gaza by a country with ties to Israel. Other countries have protested Israel's offensive, but none besides Venezuela have taken the step of expelling the ambassador.

Nearly 600 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. Israel began the attacks on Dec. 27 to stop Hamas militants from firing rockets into towns which border the Gaza strip. Chavez has historically been open in his criticism of Israeli policies and has supported the Palestinian stance.

"How far will this barbarism go?" asked Chavez, speaking on state television, "The president of Israel should be taken before an international court together with the president of the United States, if the world had any conscience."

Abraham Levy, president of the Venezuelan Confederation of Israelite Associations, told The AP, "I
deeply lament that decision made by the government, which cuts off an
enormous and long tradition of friendship between the people of Israel
and the people of Venezuela."

Meanwhile, in other parts of Latin America, people have been gathering to protest the Israeli offensive. In Argentina (which boasts the third-largest Jewish population outside of Israel), hundreds marched to the Embassy demanding an end to the attacks. In Bolivia, Muslims marched to protest Israel's actions and Brazil's President Lula da Silva has said the country will be providing food and medical aid to the Gaza Strip.

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