By Gabriel Stargardter
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino sharply rebuked Israel on Thursday after the Mossad intelligence agency said it helped foil an attack by the militant Islamist group Hezbollah on Jewish targets in Brazil.
Dino was responding to a highly unusual statement released Wednesday in which Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency thanked Brazilian police and said Hezbollah continued to attack Israeli, Jewish and Western targets “against the backdrop of the war in Gaza.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Brazilian federal police arrested two unnamed people on terrorism charges and issued 11 search and seizure warrants against properties.
Without explicitly mentioning Israel by name, Dino stopped
Dino said the investigation leading to Wednesday’s operations “began BEFORE the outbreak of the ongoing tragedies on the international stage” and said the investigation had “nothing to do with international conflicts.”
“We value appropriate international cooperation, but we oppose any foreign agency that seeks to direct Brazilian police forces or use our investigations for propaganda or their political interests,” he wrote.
He did not specifically dispute any details in the Israeli statement, but seemed rather annoyed by its timing, tone and the connection it made to the current war in Gaza.
The Israeli government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dino’s comments could sour relations with the Israeli government as Brazil tries to negotiate safe exit for about 30 Brazilians still stuck in the Gaza Strip.
They also come at a time when more Latin American countries are taking a tougher stance against Israel over its bombing of the Gaza Strip following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Late last month, Bolivia cut diplomatic ties with Israel, while Colombia and Chile recalled their ambassadors.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has tried to balance criticism of Hamas attacks with calls for a ceasefire.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group in Lebanon, could not immediately be reached for comment. Neither could the Iranian government.
(Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Additional reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Andrew Heavens)