Chavez: Lebanon bombing is 'genocide'

Anti-Israel protests in Venezuela, El-Salvador, Mexico and Brazil.

hugo chavez 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press)
hugo chavez 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Protesters burned an Israeli flag outside the country's embassy in Venezuela and demanded an end to Israel's military offensive in Lebanon, while people also took to the streets in Mexico and El Salvador to press for a halt to the fighting. More than 2,000 protesters, including Venezuelans of Arab descent, marched through Caracas on Thursday waving Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian flags. Many were die-hard supporters of President Hugo Chavez, who has denounced the Israeli bombardments in Lebanon as "genocide." Dozens of protesters pumped their fists in the air and shouted "Viva Lebanon!" when one man held up a poster of Hizbullah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Others raised a banner reading, "Stop the genocide by the Zionist killers!" Venezuela has a sizable Arab immigrant community, including many Lebanese. Close to 1,000 Venezuelan Jews gathered for an event titled "For Peace and Solidarity with the Israeli State" at a private club in Caracas, where Israeli Ambassador Shlomo Cohen called for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. "We hope to have a diplomatic way out of this conflict, it's the only way out," Cohen told reporters. "This war was imposed on us by the radical Hizbullah organization," said Cohen, noting that the offensive was prompted by the killing and kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. "They want to destroy Israel, so what other alternative do we have when they attack our territory." Chavez on Wednesday night said the Israelis "are bombing entire cities, a true genocide." Asked about Chavez's "genocide" comment, Cohen said: "We don't want to interfere in Venezuela's foreign policy, but we don't share that position either." In Mexico City, meanwhile, dozens of people from the Lebanese immigrant community gave a letter to UN representatives saying that "Lebanon cannot be kept as a battlefield." They marched to the Lebanese Embassy, where they held a moment of silence and left roses outside. "It is a peaceful protest to repudiate the war and the amount of innocent blood that has been shed," said Jose Luis Nacif, vice president of the Lebanese Center in Mexico City. In El Salvador, protesters gathered outside the Israeli Embassy and criticized Salvadoran President Tony Saca, who is of Palestinian descent, for not denouncing Israel. "We want to condemn the massacre that Israel is committing in Palestinian and Lebanese territories," said Jhon Nasser, from the Friends of Palestinians Association in El Salvador. On Friday, about 1,000 protesters gathered in Sao Paulo, shouting "Out Israel!" and holding Lebanese flags and anti-Israeli banners, the government news service Agencia Brasil said. "This massacre against Palestine and Lebanon cannot continue," Professor Hugo Monteiro told the agency.