An Israeli minister has sparked outrage and condemnation by suggesting that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip is “an option” in the ongoing war with Hamas.
Amichai Eliyahu, the minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, made the controversial remarks in a radio interview on Sunday, where he also said that “there are no non-combatants in Gaza” and that providing humanitarian aid to the besieged enclave would be “a failure”.
When asked by the interviewer if, since there are no non-combatants in his view, a nuclear attack on the Gaza Strip is an option, Eliyahu replied: “That’s one way”.
He also said that the Gaza Strip has no right to exist, and that anyone waving a Palestinian or Hamas flag “shouldn’t continue living on the face of the earth”.
He added that the Palestinians in Gaza “can go to Ireland or deserts, the monsters in Gaza should find a solution by themselves”.
Eliyahu’s comments were met with widespread criticism and condemnation, both domestically and internationally, as well as calls for his dismissal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Eliyahu’s statements were “detached from reality” and announced that he had suspended him indefinitely from government meetings.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid also slammed the minister for his comments, calling them “a horrifying and insane remark by an irresponsible minister”.
“He offended the families of the captives, offended Israeli society and harmed our international standing,” Lapid said.
Eliyahu later tried to backtrack on his comments, saying that they were “metaphorical” and that he was only advocating for “a strong and disproportionate response to terrorism”.
However, his clarification did little to quell the anger and disbelief that his comments had generated.
The Palestinian Authority condemned Eliyahu’s remarks as “a war crime and a crime against humanity”, and called on the international community to intervene and stop Israel’s aggression.
The United Nations also expressed its concern over the minister’s comments, saying that they were “deeply disturbing and unacceptable”.
The UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said that such statements “only fuel the cycle of violence and hatred” and urged all parties to “refrain from any rhetoric or actions that could further escalate the situation”.
The European Union also denounced Eliyahu’s comments, saying that they were “completely unacceptable and contrary to international law and human rights”.
The EU spokesperson Peter Stano said that the EU “strongly rejects any suggestion of using nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in any circumstances”.
He also reiterated the EU’s call for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution to the conflict.
The war between Israel and Hamas, which started on October 7, has claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians, according to the latest figures.
More than 240 Israelis are still being held hostage by Hamas, while four hostages have been released and one rescued.
The war has also caused widespread destruction and humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, where more than 2 million people live under a 15-year-long Israeli blockade.
The international community has been trying to broker a ceasefire and a lasting peace, but so far, the efforts have been unsuccessful.