Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called out Israel for committing “genocide” against Palestinians in Gaza, comparing the monthslong military offensive in the territory with the Holocaust.

Speaking to reporters at the African Union summit in Ethiopia, the left-wing leader said on Sunday that the ongoing violence in Gaza by the Israeli military “isn’t a war, it’s a genocide.” The comments come a day after summit leaders condemned the bombardment and called for an immediate cease-fire.

“It’s not a war of soldiers against soldiers,” Lula said. “It’s a war between a highly prepared army, and women and children.”

In addition to decades of occupation, Israel launched an offensive on Gaza after Hamas militants attacked the country on Oct. 7 — killing about 1,200 and capturing hundreds, about 130 of whom are assumed to still be in Gaza. Lula called the assault by Hamas a “terrorist” act on Oct. 7 itself.

Israel’s retaliation has killed almost 30,000 Gazans — mostly women and children, according to Palestinian authorities. The attack has also left many more civilians severely wounded and without limbs; starved families by blocking food and water; caused disease spread by blocking medical aid and bombing hospitals; destroyed schools and humanitarian shelters; disproportionately attacked Palestinian journalists; and displaced the millions who now crowd in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which Israeli forces are preparing to invade.

Since Oct. 7, Lula’s position on Israel’s retaliation has become increasingly critical, and the leader has previously described the government’s actions as genocide. The Brazilian president is a vocal supporter of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide before the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.

“What’s happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people hasn’t happened at any other moment in history,” he said. “Actually, it did when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.”

The remarks almost immediately triggered an angry response from Israel, a Jewish ethnostate that the West established on Palestinian land in the wake of the Holocaust. Despite currently facing accusations of Palestinian apartheid and genocide in the international courts, Israel and its allies fervently denounce any comparisons of their behavior with that of the Nazis, who killed 6 million European Jews during World War II.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Lula’s comments were antisemitic and “disgraceful.”

“This is a trivialization of the Holocaust and an attempt to attack the Jewish people and the right of Israel to self-defense,” Netanyahu said. “Drawing comparisons between Israel and the Nazis and Hitler is to cross a red line.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that he would summon Brazil’s ambassador on Monday to reprimand the country over Lula’s remarks. While Lula has accused Israel of genocide before, Sunday marks the first time the leader compared the country’s behavior with that of the Holocaust.

“No one will compromise Israel’s right to defend itself,” Katz tweeted, calling Lula’s comments “shameful and serious.”

The Brazilian leader has also criticized Western countries’ decisions to stop funding the UNRWA — a U.N. agency that focuses on helping Palestinian refugees — after Israel accused some of the agency’s employees of being involved in the Hamas attack.

“At the moment when the Palestinian people most need support, the rich countries decided to cut humanitarian aid to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees,” he said last week while announcing that Brazil will increase its funding for UNRWA.

“Human and material losses are irreparable. We cannot trivialize the deaths of thousands of civilians as mere collateral damage,” he continued, according to Brasil247. “Before our eyes, the population of Gaza suffers from hunger, thirst, disease and other types of deprivation, as the World Health Organization warns.”


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