CAIRO, Egypt – Venezuela and Bolivia broke off diplomatic relations with Israel on Wednesday to protest its military offensive in Gaza.
The decisions by the leftist governments of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales came about a week after Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador in Caracas, Shlomo Cohen, and seven embassy staff members to protest the Jewish state's actions in Gaza.
Venezuela "has decided to break off diplomatic relations with the state of Israel given the inhumane persecution of the Palestinian people," the foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
Israeli embassy officials and representatives of Venezuela's Jewish community could not immediately be reached for comment.
After Venezuela expelled the ambassador last week, Jewish community leader Abraham Levy said the government was "taking the side of a terrorist group" by backing Gaza's Hamas leaders while ignoring Israel's perspective.
Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27, seeking to force the ruling Hamas militant group to stop rocket attacks into southern Israel. Palestinian authorities say strikes have killed more than 1,000 of their people. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, four by rocket fire from Gaza.
Morales said that he was severing relations with Israel because of the Gaza offensive, and that Bolivia he would ask the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, to bring genocide charges against top Israeli officials.
Morales told Bolivia's diplomatic corps the Israeli attacks "seriously threatened world peace."
Venezuela's Foreign Ministry said Caracas also plans to denounce Israel's military actions at the International Criminal Court and the South American nation "will not rest until it sees them punished."
Chavez has forged strong ties with numerous Arab nations and has long been critical of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. He accuses the Israeli government of acting as an arm of Washington.
Morales and Chavez have worked to cultivate relations with Iran, which vocally supports Hamas.