Netanyahu reprimands Israeli minister over Gaza ‘nuclear option’ comment | Israel-Hamas war

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has punished a young member of his cabinet who appeared to express openness to the idea of ​​Israel carrying out a nuclear attack on Gaza.

Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the minister involved – Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu from a far-right party in the coalition government – had been suspended from cabinet meetings “until further notice.”

When Eliyahu was asked in a radio interview about a hypothetical nuclear option, he replied: “That’s one way.” His comment made headlines in the Arab media and rocked mainstream Israeli broadcasters.

According to figures from the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, 9,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war, raising international concern about Israel’s tactics.

Neither Eliyahu nor his party leader are part of the streamlined ministerial forum – the War Cabinet – that is directing the war in Gaza. They would also have no prior knowledge of Israel’s nuclear capabilities – which the country does not publicly acknowledge – or the power to activate them.

Netanyahu’s office said: “Eliyahu’s statements are not based on reality. Israel and the IDF (military) operate in accordance with the highest standards of international law to prevent harm to innocent people. We will continue to do that until we win.”

In a post on social media, Eliyahu said: “It is clear to anyone sensible that the nuclear comment was metaphorical.”

He added: “A strong and disproportionate response to terrorism is absolutely necessary, which will make it clear to the Nazis and their supporters that terrorism is not worth it.”

A spokesman for Hamas, an Islamist group that advocates Israel’s destruction, said Eliyahu represents “unprecedented criminal Israeli terrorism (which) poses a danger to the entire region and the world.”

Eliyahu’s Kol BaRama radio interview noted that destroying Gaza would endanger 240 hostages – including both foreigners and Israelis – who have been held since Hamas sparked the war with a cross-border attack on October 7 that killed 1,400 people.

“In war you pay a price,” the minister replied, adding that he prayed for the return of the hostages.

Benny Gantz, a centrist former general who joined conservative Netanyahu in the streamlined war cabinet from the opposition, said Eliyahu’s comments had been damaging “and, worse, increased the pain of the hostages’ families back home.”

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents the families, issued a statement condemning Eliyahu’s comments.

“The Forum underlines that the highest priority for Israel’s actions in Gaza must be the release of hostages held by Hamas, including women, children, infants and the elderly,” the Forum said.

“Such a reckless and cruel statement, which does not represent the official position of the State of Israel or the families of the hostages, should never have been made.”

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