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Argentina's Milei to visit Israel, denounces Hamas

Argentina's President Javier Milei made an address at the Holocaust Museum in Buenos Aires
— Buenos Aires (AFP)

Argentina's new President Javier Milei, who has recently embraced Orthodox Judaism, said Friday he would visit Israel as he condemned Hamas' actions in an address to the Jewish community in Buenos Aires.

"In the coming weeks, I will be traveling to the Holy Land," Milei said in a speech at the Holocaust Museum in Argentina's capital, evoking a "new chapter in the brotherhood of our two nations."

He condemned as "atrocious and unforgivable," the October 7 attack by Islamist group Hamas on Israel which resulted in the deaths of some 1,140 people, most of them civilians according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Israel has vowed to crush the militant group and launched a military offensive that the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says has killed at least 26,083 people, about 70 percent of them women and children.

Milei was speaking on the eve of International Holocaust Memorial Day, and on the same day the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled that Israel must prevent genocide in its retaliatory war with Hamas and allow aid into Gaza.

He urged the liberation of 11 Argentines among the more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza after being captured during the Hamas attack.

Self-described anarcho-capitalist Milei was raised in a Catholic family but has spoken of his more recent study of the Torah, the book of Jewish scripture.

Right after his November election, he visited the tomb of a revered rabbi in New York, a popular spiritual pilgrimage destination for some Jews.

Argentina's Jewish community, at 250,000, is one of the largest in Latin America.

Milei has presented himself politically as an ally to Israel, open to moving Argentina's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Prior to his election, Milei had referred to Argentine-born Pope Francis as "the evil one," "nefarious," and an "imbecile" who "promotes communism."

The two seemed to reconcile when Francis called to congratulate Milei on his win and the new president invited the pope on a visit.

His Israel visit could coincide with a trip to Rome, where he is to attend a ceremony to canonize an Argentine nun. The Clarin newspaper has said the pope would receive Milei on February 12.