An Israeli junior minister who said dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was “one of the possibilities” in the Hamas war has been suspended, with Benjamin Netanyahu saying the statement was “not based in reality”.
Junior minister Amihai Eliyahu, of the right-wing Otzma Yehudit party, made the claim in an interview with Kol Beramah radio.
A minister for Jewish heritage, he is not part of the country’s war cabinet, created in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks on 7 October. He holds no sway over government decision-making in the war, The Times of Israel pointed out.
Still, the inflammatory statement was immediately denounced by other cabinet members – and Mr Eliyahu backtracked later by saying that “anyone reasonable would understand that the comment was metaphorical”.
“But we definitely need to respond powerfully and disproportionately to terrorism,” he added.
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Yoav Gallant, the defence minister, said: “It’s a good thing that people like this are not in charge of Israel’s security.”
Israel’s opposition leader immediately called for Mr Eliyahu’s sacking.
Yair Lapid said the comment was a “shocking and crazy statement by an irresponsible minister”.
“Netanyahu must fire him this morning,” he said in a statement posted to X.
Mr Netanyahu suspended Mr Eliyahu from cabinet meetings until further notice, Army Radio said.
On X, Mr Netanyahu said: “Minister Amihai Eliyahu’s statements are not based in reality.
“Israel and the IDF are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents.
“We will continue to do so until our victory.”