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Colombian president’s statements on Gaza jeopardize shut navy ties with Israel

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BOGOTA, Colombia — Escalating tensions between Colombia and Israel over the Gaza struggle may undo a long time of shut navy ties between them and hamper Colombia’s means to struggle drug traffickers and rebels, safety analysts say.

Israel has been considered one of Colombia’s major suppliers of struggle planes, surveillance gear and assault rifles for the reason that Nineteen Nineties. However on Sunday its overseas ministry introduced a suspension of protection exports to Colombia, after President Gustavo Petro refused to sentence Hamas’ assault on Israel and in contrast Israel’s actions in Gaza to these of Nazi Germany.

Analysts in Bogota say that the suspension may jeopardize a number of contracts, together with a $5 million deal between Colombia’s Protection Ministry and Israeli firm IAI to take care of Colombia’s ageing fleet of Kfir fighter jets.

Colombia’s authorities additionally lately employed an Israeli firm to outfit two Boeing 737’s with digital warfare gear and intelligence instruments that may assist the navy jam communications of the nation’s remaining insurgent teams and monitor their actions.

Israel’s embassy in Bogota declined to reply questions in regards to the export ban and whether or not it applies to contracts which have already been signed.

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Safety analysts in Bogota stated that if the ban is sustained, it may critically have an effect on Colombia’s armed forces as a consequence of their reliance on Israeli {hardware} and expertise.

“It will likely be debilitating and intensely pricey,” stated Jorge Restrepo, the director of CERAC, a safety suppose tank in Bogota. “It might probably take months or years to seek out new suppliers and to coach personnel to make use of and belief new gear.”

Colombia deepened its navy ties with Israel within the late 80’s by buying a bunch of Kfir fighter jets. The struggle planes, whose identify interprets to younger lion, are capable of launch laser-guided bombs.

They have been utilized by Colombia’s air drive in quite a few assaults on distant guerrilla camps that debilitated the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and helped push the group into peace talks that resulted in its disarmament in 2016.

However as Colombia’s fleet of twenty-two Kfir fighter jets turns into older it additionally depends extra regularly on upkeep from its Israeli producers, stated Erich Saumeth Cadavid, a Colombian protection analyst.

Cadavid famous that one potential results of the export ban could possibly be much less sorties for the Kfir planes, that are Colombia’s solely fighter jets and in addition the one planes within the nation’s arsenal which can be able to launching bombs with precision.

Colombian officers have been gradual to switch the fleet regardless of provides from producers in France, Sweden and the US, as Petro’s administration prioritizes spending in different areas.

Israel’s navy export ban comes as Colombia’s authorities continues to face the specter of insurgent teams that didn’t be a part of the 2016 peace cope with the FARC, and have grown stronger in some rural elements of the nation following the FARC’s withdrawal from these areas.

Petro’s administration lately signed cease-fires with two of those teams — the ELN and the EMC — that may expire early subsequent yr, whereas it’s preventing in opposition to the drug trafficking group often called the Gulf Clan, which is the nation’s second largest armed group.

Wilder Alejandro Sánchez, a navy analyst and president of Second Flooring Methods, a consulting agency based mostly in Washington, stated that the results of Israel’s export ban will take some months to be felt by Colombia’s armed forces.

He stated that whereas Colombia has a “various” set of weapons in its arsenal, together with Brazilian made Tremendous Tucano planes that may assault enemies on the bottom, the nation depends closely on Israel for the upkeep of surveillance gear, together with drones.

“Colombia continues to face a plethora of inner safety challenges, and so they want a powerful navy with numerous capabilities” Sánchez stated. “So this ban, if it actually does come via, comes at a extremely dangerous time.”

One other contract that could possibly be jeopardized by the ban, Sánchez stated, is a license via which Colombia’s state owned navy manufacturing facility, Indumil, produces Israeli designed Galil assault rifles, which have turn into the principal weapon used on the bottom by Colombian troops.

Following Israel’s announcement of its intent to droop navy exports, Colombia’s leftist president threatened to chop diplomatic relations with Israel and blamed the nation for the expansion of paramilitary teams in Colombia, although he did not present proof for that declare.

“If we should droop relations with Israel, then that’s what we are going to do,” Petro wrote on the social media platform X. “From the folks of Israel I demand assist for the development of peace in Colombia, in Palestine and on this planet.”

Petro, who was as soon as a member of a left-wing insurgent group that made peace with Colombia’s authorities within the Nineteen Nineties, has written dozens of messages on X in regards to the struggle in Gaza for the reason that battle started on October 7.

In some, he has in contrast the circumstances within the Gaza strip to these of a focus camp, and in different messages he has written that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is equal to “genocide.”

However the president has refused to sentence Hamas’ assault on Israel, regardless of quite a few calls by Colombian politicians and intellectuals for him to take action.

Whereas Petro’s supporters commend him for talking forcefully in regards to the plight of Palestinians, critics are nervous that his model of on-line diplomacy may finally lead to a whole rupture of relations with Israel, and undermine Colombia’s relations with different international locations.

“By not condemning the terrorist assault, he’s drifting away from Colombia’s strategic allies and placing Colombia subsequent to the nations that assist terrorism,” stated Diego Molano, a former Colombian protection minister.

“Petro is impulsive and he sees within the Palestinian trigger one thing that he can turn into a vocal supporter of that aligns together with his ideology and his ardour for anti-colonialism,” stated Sergio Guzmán, a political danger analyst in Bogota. “However he’s not taking Colombia’s pursuits into consideration, and it places Colombia in a troublesome place.”

On Thursday afternoon Petro held separate conferences with the ambassadors of Israel and Palestine and posted photographs on X. He introduced Colombia would ship humanitarian assist to the residents of the Gaza strip and wrote on his account that he had advised each ambassadors about his want to assist arrange an “worldwide peace convention that opens the trail for 2 free and impartial states.”


Observe AP’s protection of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

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