Israel Expels Venezuelan Envoys

Israel has given Venezuela’s mission to the country until Friday to leave following Caracas’ decision to cut off diplomatic ties.

Venezuela’s ambassador in Tel Aviv and two of his staff had been ordered to leave and are expected to depart on Thursday, the Israeli foreign ministry announced on Wednesday.

Caracas said that Israel was also expelling its chief diplomat in the Palestinian West Bank.

Venezuela had initially expelled Israeli emissaries to the country on January 6, following Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip.

It then decided to cut off diplomatic relations on January 14, although its own embassy in Israel continued to function.

"The response of the state of Israel is weak, late and, in any case for us, it’s an honour," Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s foreign minister, told Al Jazeera.

"We’re proud that the state of Israel that exists today, led by these criminals, made this decision."

Maduro also denied his government was anti-Semitic, complaining that counties criticising Israel are "automatically added to the list of anti-Semites".

"All of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities know religious discrimination is not a problem that has, or will have, a place in our society," Maduro said.

Abraham Levy, a Jewish community leader, had accused Venezuela of anti-Semitism.

Maduro also said that Caracas had no relations with Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, or Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia group, which fought a war against Israel in 2006.

More than 1,300 Palestinians died in Israel’s war on Gaza, which lasted three-weeks, many of them civilians. Fourteen Israel’s died during the same period.
 
(Aljazeera and Agencies)

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