BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Israel criticized Bolivia, Chile and Colombia on Wednesday after the South American countries undertook a series of diplomatic moves to protest Israel’s military operations against Hamas in Gaza.
Other Latin American countries, including Argentina and Brazil, have also increased their criticism of the impact that Israel’s military operations are having on civilians.
Israel on Wednesday called on Colombia and Chile to “explicitly condemn the Hamas terrorist organization, which slaughtered and abducted babies, children, women and the elderly,” according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The call came hours after Chile and Colombia both recalled their ambassadors to Israel on Tuesday evening amid criticism of the killing of civilians in Gaza.
“Israel expects Colombia and Chile to support the right of a democratic country to protect its citizens, and to call for the immediate release of all the abductees, and not align themselves with Venezuela and Iran in support of Hamas terrorism,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said.
Although the statement from Chile’s Foreign Ministry regarding the recall of its ambassador did not mention Hamas, President Gabriel Boric did mention Hamas in a separate statement on X, formerly Twitter, in which he said “innocent civilians” were the “main victims of Israel’s offensive.”
Chile “doesn’t doubt in condemning the attacks and kidnappings perpetrated by Hamas,” Boric wrote. “Humanity cannot sustain itself through ties that dehumanize.”
Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro has been more direct as he has shared lots of messages on social media condemning Israel’s actions.
“It’s called genocide; they’re doing it to remove the Palestinian people from Gaza and take it over,” Petro wrote on X. “The head of the state committing this genocide is a criminal against humanity.”
Earlier, Israel had condemned Bolivia’s decision Tuesday to sever diplomatic ties with Israel, characterizing it as a “surrender to terrorism and to the Ayatollah’s regime in Iran.” Although Sunni, Hamas has grown increasingly close to the Shiite powerhouse, Iran.
Cutting diplomatic ties with Israel means “the Bolivian government is aligning itself with the Hamas terrorist organization,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said. Bolivia had previously severed diplomatic ties with Israel in 2009 only to resume them in 2020.
The diplomatic moves by the three South American countries, all of which are led by leftist leaders, come as others in the region have ramped up their criticism of Israel’s military activity.
Argentina on Wednesday criticized Israel’s attack in the Jabaliya refugee camp and said the “humanitarian situation in Gaza is ever more alarming.”
“Argentina has unequivocally condemned the terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7 and recognizes Israel’s right to its legitimate defense. However, nothing justifies the violation of international humanitarian law and the obligation to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts,” Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said.
There are 21 Argentine citizens still missing and presumed to be held hostage by Hamas, according to estimates by the Foreign Ministry, which says nine Argentines have been killed in the conflict.
Argentina’s statement came hours after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called on Israel to end its bombing of Gaza.
“We are seeing, for the first time, a war in which the majority of those killed are children,” Lula wrote on X. “Stop! For the love of God, stop!”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, criticized Bolivia, Chile and Colombia for their diplomatic moves.
“Bolivia’s alliance with Iran is becoming clearer every day considering that the breakup is not due to the real interests of the Bolivian people,” Ariel Gelblung, the center’s director for Latin America, said in a statement Tuesday.
The center characterized the decision by the governments of Colombia and Chile to recall their ambassadors on Tuesday evening “a clearly coordinated action.”
“Both leaders have always been hostile toward Israel and both have a history of diplomatic disagreements with representatives of the Jewish State,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center said.
Associated Press writer Astrid Suarez contributed to this report from Bogota, Colombia.