Bolivia severs ties with Israel, others recall envoys over Gaza

Palestinians search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on a residential building

By Daniel Ramos

LA PAZ (Reuters) -Bolivia said on Tuesday it had broken diplomatic ties with Israel because of its attacks on the Gaza Strip, while neighbors Colombia and Chile recalled their ambassadors to the Middle Eastern country for consultations.

The three South American nations lambasted Israel's attacks on Gaza and condemned the deaths of Palestinian citizens.

Bolivia "decided to break diplomatic relations with the Israeli state in repudiation and condemnation of the aggressive and disproportionate Israeli military offensive taking place in the Gaza Strip," Deputy Foreign Minister Freddy Mamani said at a press conference.

The three countries called for a ceasefire, with Bolivia and Chile pushing for the passage of humanitarian aid into the zone and accusing Israel of violating international law.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro called the attacks a "massacre of the Palestinian people" in a post on the social media network X, formerly known as Twitter.

Israel's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Brazil, have also called for a ceasefire.

"What we have now is the insanity of Israel's prime minister, who wants to wipe out the Gaza Strip," said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday.

Bolivia is among the first countries to actively break diplomatic relations with Israel over its war in Gaza, retaliation for an Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel by Palestinian Hamas militants who Israel says killed 1,400 people, including children, and took 240 people hostage.

Bolivia cut diplomatic ties with Israel in 2009 under the government of leftist President Evo Morales, also in protest against Israel's actions in Gaza.

In 2020, the government of right-wing interim President Jeanine Anez reestablished ties.

"We reject the war crimes being committed in Gaza. We support international initiatives to guarantee humanitarian aid, in compliance with international law," Bolivian President Arce said on social media on Monday.

Gaza health authorities say that 8,525 people, including 3,542 children, have been killed in Israeli attacks since Oct. 7. U.N. officials say more than 1.4 million of Gaza's civilian population of about 2.3 million have been made homeless.

The Israel military has accused Iran-backed Hamas, which rules the narrow coastal territory, of using civilian buildings as cover for fighters, commanders and weaponry, accusations it denies.

(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Additional reporting by Gabriel Araujo, Lucinda Elliott, Oliver Griffin and Peter Frontini; Writing by Brendan O'Boyle and Kylie Madry; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Stephen Coates)