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Israeli minister says dropping atom bomb on Gaza a 'possibility'; Netanyahu suspends him amid outrage

A controversial statement by Israeli Minister Amichai Eliyahu about using a nuclear bomb in Gaza sparks widespread condemnation and political repercussions, highlighting the sensitivity of the ongoing conflict and its diplomatic challenges.

Israeli minister says dropping atom bomb on Gaza a 'possibility'; Netanyahu suspends him amid outrage snt
First Published Nov 5, 2023, 3:02 PM IST

Amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, a statement made by Israeli Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu has ignited a storm of controversy and condemnation. In an interview with Radio Kol Berama, Eliyahu was asked whether an atomic bomb should be dropped on the enclave, to which he responded, "this is one of the possibilities."

The remarks, which he later referred to as "metaphorical," have been met with widespread criticism, both domestically and internationally. "It’s clear to anyone with a brain that the remark about the atom was metaphorical. We indeed must display a forceful and disproportional response to terror, which will clarify to the Nazis and their supporters that terrorism isn’t worthwhile. This is the only formula with which democracies can deal with terror," Eliyahu said.

Also read: Israel-Hamas war: IDF says 2500 terror targets destroyed since Gaza ground operation began (WATCH)

"Simultaneously, it is clear that the State of Israel is obligated to do everything to return the captives alive and in good health," the Israeli minister added.

In response to the outrage, Prime Minister Netanyahu swiftly disavowed Eliyahu's statement, emphasizing that Israel and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are committed to abiding by the highest international standards in their actions during the conflict. He also suspended Eliyahu from government meetings indefinitely.

"Amichai Eliyahu’s words are detached from reality,” Netanyahu said in a statement on Sunday. "Israel and the IDF are acting in accordance with the highest standards of international law in order to prevent harm to uninvolved people, and we will continue to do that all the way to victory."

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Yair Lapid strongly condemned the statement, labeling it as "horrifying and insane" and urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to dismiss the minister. Lapid asserted that such remarks not only offend the families of captives but also harm Israel's international standing.

"He offended the families of the [241 Gaza] captives, offended Israeli society and harmed our international standing,” Lapid said. “The presence of the extremists in the government endangers us and the success of the war goals — defeating Hamas and returning the hostages. Netanyahu must fire him this morning."

Meanwhile, Hamas said that Eliyahu’s comments reflect the unprecedented terrorism of the Netanyahu government.

Also read: Israel-Hamas war: Outrage over quality of UN aid as 'nearly expired' biscuits delivered to Gaza (WATCH)

It's worth noting that Eliyahu is not a part of the security cabinet responsible for wartime decision-making, nor does he hold authority over the war cabinet directing operations against Hamas. 

Eliyahu's controversial remarks extended beyond the nuclear option. He also voiced his objection to humanitarian aid entering Gaza, saying "we wouldn’t hand the Nazis humanitarian aid,” and charging that “there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza."

The Israeli minister also backed retaking the Gaza Strip’s territory and restoring the settlements there. When asked about the fate of people of Palestine, he said, "They can go to Ireland or deserts, the monsters in Gaza should find a solution by themselves."

He firmly stated that the northern Strip has no right to exist, adding that anyone waving a Palestinian or Hamas flag "shouldn’t continue living on the face of the Earth."

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