SÃO PAULO – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff condemned Israel’s military offensive in Gaza as “disproportionate” and a “massacre” on Monday, joining international calls for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Speaking with journalists at a forum organised by the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, Rousseff said calls for an end to the bloodshed made by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made earlier on Monday were “extremely welcome”.
“I think what is happening in Gaza is extremely dangerous; it is a massacre. It is not a genocide that is being waged, but a disproportionate action,” Rousseff said, echoing statements released by the Brazilian foreign ministry.
“It’s a humanitarian issue. The area is so small; women and children are dying. We know that in a war like this, the ones who pay are the civilians.”
The Brazilian leader appeared to clarify comments made last week by her chief advisor on international affairs, Marco Aurélio Garcia, who said last week that the Israel offensive was a “genocide.”
It is the first time the president has spoken on the subject since Brazil announced last Thursday that its ambassador in Tel Aviv, Henrique Sardinha Pinto, would be recalled – a major act of protest in diplomatic terms.
Rousseff said on Monday that the ambassador would return “in due course” and that there was no break in diplomatic relations between the two countries, who continued to be “friends.”
The announcement had threatened to spark a major diplomatic row between the two countries, particularly when Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor lambasted Brazil, calling it a “diplomatic dwarf” that was “politically irrelevant”.
Brazil’s response at the time sought not to escalate the situation. Rousseff said she “regretted” the spokesperson’s choice of language, which had “produced a very bad climate” between the two countries.
The Brazilian president will join the leaders of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela in Caracas on Tuesday for the annual summit of the Mercosur South American economic bloc, according to the Agência Brasil news agency.
The leaders are expected to discuss the situation in Gaza and produce a joint declaration.