The veteran leftist had previously condemned as a “terrorist attack” the October 7 assault on Israel by the Palestinian militant group, in which its fighters stormed across the border from the Gaza Strip, killing around 1,200 people, most of them civilians, according to Israeli officials.
But the leader of Latin America’s biggest country said the group’s actions do not justify Israel’s military response in Gaza, where more than 11,200 people, also mostly civilians, have been killed, according to health officials in the Hamas-run territory.
“Israel’s attitude toward children, toward women, is the equivalent of terrorism. There’s no other way to put it,” Lula said in his weekly social media address.
“If I know a place is full of children, even if there’s a monster inside, I can’t kill the children just because I want to kill the monster.”
The comments came as fighting raged around Gaza’s biggest hospital, which Israel accuses Hamas of using as a hideout, an accusation the group denies.
Lula, 78, had already come in for criticism from Jewish groups in Brazil for his remarks on the conflict.
On Monday, he said that “even if Hamas committed a terrorist act, Israel is also committing various acts of terrorism, by failing to take into account that children and women are not involved in the war.”
Those statements came as he welcomed a flight carrying 32 Brazilians and family members evacuated from Gaza through its land border with Egypt.
The evacuation took weeks of diplomatic wrangling and had stoked tension between Brazil and Israel.
The Brazil-Israel Institute condemned Lula’s remarks.
The president “equated attacks by a terrorist group, which is using the Palestinian population as a human shield... with the Israeli government’s military response,” it said in a statement.