Colombia’s president says country will break diplomatic relations with Israel over war in Gaza

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Wednesday announced his government will break diplomatic relations with Israel effective Thursday in the latest escalation of tensions between the countries over the Israel-Hamas war.

Petro again described Israel’s siege of Gaza as “genocide.” He previously suspended purchases of weapons from Israel and compared that country’s actions in Gaza to those of Nazi Germany.

“Tomorrow, diplomatic relations with the State of Israel will be broken … for having a genocidal president,” Petro said during an International Workers’ Day march in Colombia’s capital. “If Palestine dies, humanity dies, and we are not going to let it die.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz quickly rebuked Petro’s comments on the platform X.

“History will remember that Gustavo Petro decided to side with the most despicable monsters known to mankind who burned babies, murdered children, raped women and kidnapped innocent civilians,” he said.

Weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that sparked the current war in Gaza and killed some 1,200 people, Petro recalled Colombia’s ambassador to Israel as he criticized the country’s military offensive.

Historically, Colombia had been one of Israel’s closest partners in Latin America. But relations between the two nations have cooled since Petro was elected as Colombia’s first leftist president in 2022.

Colombia uses Israeli-built warplanes and machine guns to fight drug cartels and rebel groups, and both countries signed a free trade agreement in 2020.

“Relations between Israel and Colombia always were warm and no antisemitic and hate-filled president will succeed in changing that,” Katz wrote Tuesday. “The state of Israel will continue to defend its citizens without worry and without fear.”

The South American country deepened its military ties with Israel in the late 1980s by purchasing Kfir fighter jets that were used by Colombia’s air force in numerous attacks on remote guerrilla camps that debilitated the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The attacks helped push the group into peace talks that resulted in its disarmament in 2016.

Petro participated in Wednesday’s march in Bogota to promote his proposed health care, pension and labor reforms.

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