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Published: Sunday July 20, 2014 MYT 2:00:02 AM
Updated: Sunday July 20, 2014 MYT 2:01:26 AM

Venezuela condemns Israeli 'genocide' and 'extermination'

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's socialist government condemned Israeli strikes in Gaza on Saturday as a policy of genocide that could not be justified as like-for-like warfare.

President Nicolas Maduro has maintained the foreign policy of his firebrand predecessor Hugo Chavez, who was popular in the Arab world and broke relations with Israel after accusing it of "holocaust" for its 2009 offensive in Gaza.

Israel's latest attacks have "initiated a higher phase of its policy of genocide and extermination with the ground invasion of Palestinian territory, killing innocent men, women, girls and boys," a Venezuelan government statement said.

Israel says it has launched air strikes, naval barrages and a ground assault in Gaza, controlled by Islamist group Hamas, to halt rockets fired into Israel. Palestinian officials say the strikes have killed more than 330 people, mostly civilians.

Venezuela called for the United Nations' human rights body to meet and condemn Israel.

"Venezuela also rejects the cynical campaigns trying to condemn both parties equally, when it is clear you cannot morally compare occupied and massacred Palestine with the occupying state, Israel, which also possesses military superiority and acts on the margins of international law."

Some domestic critics of Maduro say he should put his own house in order, including sorting out one of the world's worst murder rates, if he wants to condemn violence elsewhere.

Maduro, who had been Chavez's foreign minister, won election when his predecessor died of cancer last year.

(Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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