Chile: Protesters Call to Cut Ties with Israel
Thousands marched in Chile's capital Saturday against Israel's operation in Gaza, urging President Michelle Bachelet to break off diplomatic relations with the Jewish state, reported AFP.
"Break it off, Break it off, Break off ties with Israel!" chanted demonstrators who marched to the presidential palace, many waving banners or decked out in the traditional Arab keffiyeh scarf.
There are about 300,000 Arabs in Chile -- a country of 17 million -- including a large Palestinian Arab community.
"We are asking President Michelle Bachelet to expel Israel's ambassador, and to end ties with Israel. We want the world to know Chileans have stood against this Israeli massacre," said Mauricio Abu-Gosh, head of the Palestinian Association of Chile, according to AFP.
The protest came as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the Jewish state would keep up its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza for as long and as forcefully as needed.
Chile already has recalled its ambassador to Israel over the violence, as have Argentina, El Salvador and Peru. All have significant Arab populations, most of them of Palestinian Arab origin.
Israel expressed "deep disappointment" after the Latin American countries recalled their ambassadors.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement that these moves constitute "encouragement" for Hamas, a group recognized as a terror organization by many countries around the world.
"Israel expects countries who oppose terrorism to act responsibly and not to hand terrorists a prize," Palmor stated. "So far, every time Israel accepted plans for establishing a ceasefire and restoring calm, it was countered by Hamas's sustained rocket fire."
"El Salvador, Chile and Peru would have been much better advised to promote the international move intended to assist Israel in its efforts to defend innocent civilians and instate a durable ceasefire with the demilitarization of Gaza," he added.