An Israeli minister was suspended from government meetings “until further notice” Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said, after suggesting in an interview dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.
The comments by Heritage Minister Amichay Eliyahu advocating a fierce military response to Hamas’s October 7 attacks even at the cost of the lives of hostages believed to be held in Gaza also drew rebuke from families of the captives.
Eliyahu, an ultranationalist politician part of Netnayahu’s ruling coalition, told Israel’s Kol Barama radio he was not entirely satisfied with the scale of Israel’s retaliation in the Palestinian territory after Hamas fighters carried out their deadly attacks inside southern Israel.
The attacks killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, Israeli officials say.
Israel’s military campaign in Gaza since October 7 has killed 9,488 people, most of them women and children, the Hamas-run health ministry says.
When the interviewer asked whether the Israeli minister advocated dropping “some kind of atomic bomb” on the Gaza Strip “to kill everyone”, Eliyahu replied: “That’s one option”.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office quickly responded in a statement, describing Eliyahu’s remarks as “disconnected from reality” and adding that Israel was trying to spare “non-combatants” in Gaza.
In a follow-up question about the estimated 240 hostages held in Gaza, Eliyahu said that “in war we pay a price.”
“Why are the lives of the hostages… more important than the lives of the soldiers?” he said.
“International law, along with fundamental principles of human morality and common sense, strictly prohibits the use of mass destruction weapons,” it said in a statement, calling for the release of all the hostages.
Following the outcry over his remarks, Eliyahu said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that his statement about the atomic bomb was “metaphorical”.
He also said that Israel was “committed to doing everything possible to return the hostages safe and sound”.
Israel has never admitted to having a nuclear bomb.
The Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, representing relatives of people snatched to Gaza by Hamas militants, slammed Eliyahu’s “reckless and cruel” statement.