PARIS (JTA) — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Israelis are “openly” assassinating Palestinians.
“It’s not that the Israelis want to exterminate the Palestinians. They are doing it openly,” said Chavez in an interview published Wednesday in the French daily Le Figaro.
“Do you remember the last Israeli aggression against Gaza? What is that about, if not genocide?” he asked.
Last December, the Israeli government began a three-week offensive in Gaza after Hamas repeatedly fired rockets at southern Israel.
But Chavez said it was "hard to believe” Israelis were merely responding to Hamas rockets, and that "it was a savage attack against an innocent people."
"The Israelis looked for an excuse to exterminate the Palestinians," he said.
Chavez said he “recognized Israel’s right to live,” but warned that “Israel must respect the principle of self-determination for the Palestinians.”
The Venezuelan leader spoke on the sidelines of the Venice film festival, where he stars in a documentary film by American director Oliver Stone.
Chavez also said in the interview that he offered his “outstretched” hand to American President Obama.