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Bolivia, Venezuela sever ties with Israel

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Bolivia and Venezuela cut diplomatic ties with Israel over Israel’s operation in Gaza.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said he also would ask that the World Criminal Court charge Israeli leaders with genocide, according to media reports.

"The Israeli government’s crimes affect global stability and peace, and have returned the world to the worst stage of crimes against humanity that we hadn’t seen except in World War II and in the last years in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda," Morales said.

The Israeli government said Wednesday that it had not yet been notified by the Bolivian government of its decision to end diplomatic relations.

Venezuela officially broke off diplomatic relations several hours after the Bolivian announcement. The official announcement follows the Jan. 6 expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Caracas and seven embassy staff members by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Morales.

A statement released Wednesday by the Venezuelan Foreign MInistery said the country "has decided to break off diplomatic relations with the state of Israel given the inhumane persecution of the Palestinian people," according to reports.

B’nai B’rith International called Bolivia’s decision a "troubling development in the region," noting that "Bolivia has enjoyed excellent relations with Israel for many years" and that the two countries have several cooperative programs.

"It is noteworthy that this announcement was made a day after Morales met with an Iranian delegation headed by Iranian Minister of Cooperation Mohammad Abbasi," B’nai B’rith said in a statement. "Iran has been trying to expand its influence in Latin America for years, and this episode only underscores Morales’ willingness to cooperate with the Iranian government that sponsors terror worldwide and has one of the worst human rights records in the world."

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