May 29, 2024

Brazil recalls ambassador to Israel over Gaza war

Brazil recalls ambassador to Israel over Gaza war

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Brazil has recalled its ambassador to Israel, a diplomatic source told AFP Wednesday, ratcheting up tensions between the two countries over Israel’s war in Gaza.

The nearly eight-month-old conflict has soured Israel’s diplomatic ties with several nations, including Brazil, whose President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in February accused the country’s government of genocide.

Israel reacted furiously, declaring the Brazilian leader persona non grata.

Israel had previously summoned the South American country’s ambassador Frederico Meyer to a meeting at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem, where he was publically reprimanded in Hebrew without a translator present, said the Brazilian source.

This “humiliation” to which Meyer was subjected contributed to his permanent recall, the source said.

The source said conditions had not been met for Meyer to return to Israel and there are no immediate plans to replace him.

Brazil will now be represented in Israel by diplomat Fabio Farias.

Israel’s foreign ministry said in a statement it had not yet received “an official notification about the matter.”

Farias “will be summoned to the foreign ministry tomorrow for a meeting on the subject,” said the ministry.

Growing outcry 

Lula, a prominent voice for the global south whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the G20, has faced pushback at home from the far right over his comments.

However, he has received support elsewhere in Latin America, notably from Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, who went so far as to sever ties with Israel.

Both Brazil and Colombia have supported South Africa’s complaint against Israel to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, alleging the Gaza assault amounted to a breach of the Genocide Convention.

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,171 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.

On Friday, Lula expressed his “tremendous sadness” after the Israeli army announced that it had recovered the bodies of three hostages, including that of an Israeli-Brazilian citizen, Michel Nisenbaum.

He added he was “committed to the efforts to free all the hostages, and to achieve a ceasefire and peace for the people of Israel and Palestine.”

As the war has dragged on, Israel has faced a growing global outcry, with opposition mounting as the focus of the war turns to Rafah, the last Gaza city to see ground fighting.

Before the Rafah offensive began on May 7, the United Nations had warned that up to 1.4 million people were sheltering in the city. Since then, one million have fled the area, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has said.

The conflict has also revived a global push for Palestinians to be given a state of their own.

Norway, Spain and Ireland on Tuesday formally recognized a State of Palestine, breaking with the long-held position of Western powers that a Palestinian state can only come as part of a negotiated peace with Israel.

Israel has slammed the move as a “reward” for Hamas.