Israel’s Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu has been suspended indefinitely, following his suggestion that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was “one of the possibilities.”
The government announced his suspension on Sunday.
“Eliyahu’s statements are not based in reality,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on X.
Israel and its military “are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents,” the Prime Minister added.
A member of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, Eliyahu earlier on Sunday claimed in a radio interview that since there were “no non-combatants in Gaza,” using an atomic weapon on the Palestinian enclave was “one of the possibilities.”
Eliyahu later sought to rectify his statement, saying it was “clear to all sensible people” that his reference to nuclear weapons had been “metaphorical.”
Opposition leader Yair Lipid has asked for Eliyahu’s immediate removal, denouncing a “shocking and crazy statement by an irresponsible minister.”
Israel, which has one of the most powerful armies in the Middle East, is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, although it has never publicly conducted nuclear tests.
Netanyahu’s government has launched a ground assault into Gaza and thousands of airstrikes on the enclave, killing more than 9,400 people, according to the Hamas-run health authorities in Gaza.
Israel’s offensive has also led to strikes on several non-military targets, including nearby refugee camps and an ambulance convoy which Israel says was being used by Hamas.