Lula removes Brazilian ambassador to Israel amid diplomatic spat

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva removed his ambassador to Israel from his post and sent him to serve as his special representative in Geneva amid a diplomatic spat between the two countries, the official gazette showed on Wednesday.

The removal of Frederico Meyer comes a few months after Lula called him back to Brazil. Meyer's recall had followed Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz summoning Meyer to tell him Lula was persona non grata in the Middle Eastern country.

Israel's move was related to Lula's remarks likening Israel's war on Gaza to the Holocaust.

Meyer had not returned to Israel since then.

He will now serve as Brazil's special representative to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva.

A new Brazilian ambassador to Israel will be announced in due course, Brazil's foreign relations ministry said in a statement, adding that until then, its embassy in Tel Aviv will be led by its charge d'affaires.

Israel has been fighting to eradicate Hamas, which rules Gaza, since an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by militants in which some 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. Nearly 130 hostages are believed to remain captive in Gaza.

Gaza health authorities say more than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war. Israel says it wants to root out the last major formations of Hamas fighters hunkered down in Rafah and rescue the hostages.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Editing by Rod Nickel)