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ARGENTINA | 08-02-2024 12:20

Argentina's President Javier Milei likens Hamas attack on Israel to the Holocaust

Argentina's President Javier Milei on Thursday likened Hamas' attacks on southern Israel to the Holocaust after touring a kibbutz targeted in the October 7 raids.

President Javier Milei on Thursday likened Hamas's attacks on southern Israel to the Holocaust, after touring a kibbutz targeted in the October 7 raids.

Argentina's head of state joined Israel's President Isaac Herzog on a visit to Nir Oz near the border with Gaza, where residents were killed or taken hostage by the Palestinian militant group.

They were accompanied by former hostage Ofelia Roitman, an elderly Argentine national who moved to Israel in 1985, making her first visit back to the farming community since she was released.

During the visit to the kibbutz, Milei visited the former home of Kfir Bibas, the nine-month-old Argentine baby who was kidnapped during the October 7 attacks. The infant lived there with his four-year-old brother Ariel, and mother Shiri and father Yarden.

Kfir was the youngest hostage taken in the terror attack. On November 29, Hamas announced that the boy and his family had been killed by an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip. Hours beforehand, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari announced that the family had not been kidnapped by Hamas, but by another terrorist faction which joined the attack. 

Milei, who was elected in November and is on his first official state visit as president, has appeared visibly emotional during his time in Israel, and said Thursday's tour was "very moving."

The 53-year-old economist again gave his backing to Israel's fight-back against Hamas, calling the Palestinian Islamists a "terrorist group" who had committed "a crime against humanity."

"The free world can't remain indifferent in this case, as we see clear examples of terrorism and anti-Semitism and what I would describe as 21st-century Nazism," he said.

"When we hear about the methods that were used this time, it reminds us of the atrocities of the Holocaust," he added, according to remarks translated from Spanish by Herzog's office.

Nir Oz lies opposite Khan Yunis, the Gaza Strip home to the suspected mastermind of the attacks Yahya Sinwar, Hamas's leader in the territory.

It has been subjected to days of heavy bombardment as Israel tries to hunt him down and other senior leaders.

The kibbutz, founded in 1958, saw a quarter of its 400 or so residents killed or kidnapped in the unprecedented assault, while some 60 percent of its houses were destroyed.

Milei, wearing a black leather jacket, black combat trousers and trainers, stepped through the burned-out ruins and passed walls covered in dried blood, as the sound of heavy shelling and automatic gunfire echoed from Khan Yunis nearby.

Soon after the visit of the two presidents, an alert sounded signalling the first rocket attacks in the region in three days.

Many traumatised Israelis have likened the attacks, which left 1,160 dead according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli statistics, to the horrors of the Holocaust.

A total of 132 of the 250 hostages taken are still in Gaza, but 29 are presumed dead, Israel has said.

But the head of Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial centre, has described comparisons as "simplistic... even if there are similarities in the genocidal intentions, sadism and barbarism of Hamas".

"The crimes that took place on October 7 are on the same level as Nazi crimes, but they are not the Shoah," Dani Dayan told AFP last year, using another term for the Holocaust.

Argentina is home to more than 200,000 Jews – one of the largest communities in Latin America – and 12 out of the 18 Argentine nationals who resided in Nir Oz were captured in the Hamas attack.

Inside Rotman's house, only beds, Spanish-language books on the tango and a photograph of communist revolutionary Ernesto 'Che'' Guevara remained. Outside lay a television ripped from the wall of her bedroom.

Rotman, 77, suffered an arm injury during her kidnapping and has since had to undergo several operations.

Milei, who was raised in a Catholic family but has studied Jewish scripture, placed a wreath near the eternal flame at the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem on Wednesday.

The La Libertad Avanza leader – who has said he would convert to Judaism were it not for the obligation to observe Shabbat – arrived in Israel on Tuesday on a four-day visit and immediately announced plans to move Argentina's embassy to Jerusalem.

Only a handful of countries have their Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, and any international recognition of the city's status as a capital is deeply controversial.

Hamas, which runs Gaza, condemned the news and said in response that Jerusalem remains "occupied Palestinian land."

 

– TIMES/AFP

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