Expelled Israeli ambassador leaves Venezuela

Israel's ambassador to Venezuela left the country Friday, expelled by President Hugo Chavez in rejection of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Chavez had given Ambassador Shlomo Cohen and some embassy personnel until Friday to leave the country. The expulsion is "the most difficult moment in the more than 50-year history of relations between Venezuela and Israel," Cohen told The Associated Press before boarding a flight to Frankfurt, Germany. "We are harboring the hope this will be resolved quickly and relations will improve." Chavez called Cohen's expulsion a "gesture of dignity" in response to Israeli air and ground strikes on Gaza, which have killed at least 777 Palestinians since Dec. 27 - many of them civilians. The Israeli offensive aims to stop Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel.