In a startling turn of events, Israeli Heritage Minister Amichay Eliyahu has been suspended from government meetings “until further notice” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. The suspension came in response to Eliyahu’s remarks during an interview in which he suggested the possibility of dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza as a military response to Hamas’ surprise attacks on October 7.
Eliyahu, known for his ultranationalist stance and a part of Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, expressed dissatisfaction with the scale of Israel’s retaliation in Gaza. When asked during the interview whether he advocated using “some kind of atomic bomb” on Gaza to eliminate the entire population, Eliyahu shockingly responded with “That’s one option.”
The comments drew swift condemnation from various quarters. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office described Eliyahu’s remarks as “disconnected from reality” and emphasized Israel’s commitment to sparing non-combatants in Gaza. Furthermore, Hamas characterized Eliyahu’s statement as “unprecedented criminal Israeli terrorism” and a danger to the entire region and the world.
In a follow-up question about the estimated 240 hostages held in Gaza, Eliyahu controversially stated that “in war, we pay a price” and questioned why the lives of hostages were considered more important than the lives of soldiers.
The Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, representing the relatives of hostages held by Hamas, strongly criticized Eliyahu’s statements as “reckless and cruel” and emphasized the prohibition of using mass destruction weapons in international law.
In the face of the outrage caused by his remarks, Eliyahu later clarified on social media that his statement about the atomic bomb was “metaphorical.” He also affirmed Israel’s commitment to doing everything possible to secure the safe return of the hostages.
This incident has stirred international reactions, with the Arab League chief, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, suggesting that Eliyahu’s remarks hint at Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, a widely speculated but unconfirmed fact. Saudi Arabia expressed strong disapproval of the Israeli government’s failure to immediately dismiss the minister and criticized the disregard for moral and legal standards. Jordan condemned Eliyahu’s comments as a “call for genocide and a hate crime” against the Palestinians.