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21:12 | 2009-01-07


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Venezuela Expels Israeli Envoy after Gaza Invasion

TEHRAN (FNA)- Venezuela's government expelled Israel's ambassador and said the country's leaders should be tried for war crimes after more than 670 Palestinians were killed by the Zionist regime's army in the Gaza Strip.

Some personnel at the embassy in Caracas also must leave, Venezuela's foreign ministry said in a statement. President Hugo Chavez said yesterday that Israel's fight against Hamas was "genocidal" and had the support of President George W. Bush.

"If there's any shame in the world, the president of Israel should be taken to the International Criminal Court along with the president of the United States," Chavez said today in comments broadcast by state television. "How much are the Palestinian children suffering?"

Calls to the Israeli embassy in Venezuela weren't answered. The Venezuelan foreign ministry's statement didn't specify how many staff members from the embassy would be expelled.

Governments across Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, have condemned the violence in the Middle East and called for an end to fighting.

Israeli forces struck a school run by the United Nations in the Gaza Strip this week, killing at least 30 Palestinians, according to Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works in Jerusalem. Several mosques and schools have been struck since Israel began an assault on Gaza 14 days ago.

At least 670 Palestinians have died in the conflict and 2,950 have been wounded, said Mu'awia Hassanein, chief of emergency medical services in Gaza. Six Israeli soldiers have been killed since the ground fighting began, the Zionist army said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been lobbying throughout the Middle East for a cease-fire, said the casualties at the school demonstrate the urgent need to stop the fighting.

All branches of the Venezuelan government showed support for Palestinians today. Lawmaker Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly, along with several other lawmakers, wore a traditional keffiyeh cloth during today's session.

"In this tragic and upsetting moment, the Venezuelan people communicate their unconditional solidarity with the heroic Palestinian people," the foreign ministry's statement said.

A dispute between Chavez and Israel may make it more difficult for US President-elect Barack Obama to improve relations with Venezuela. The socialist South American leader has accused the US of supporting opposition groups in Venezuela, and in September expelled the US ambassador in Caracas.

"It will be much harder for Obama to extend a generous olive branch after this, because pro-Israel sections of the Democratic and Republican parties aren't going to be happy," a political analyst said.