Israel has reprimanded a junior member of the far-right cabinet who appeared open to the idea of Israel carrying out a nuclear strike on Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Heritage Minister Amichay Eliyahu was suspended from cabinet meetings "until further notice."
"Eliyahu's statements are not based in reality. Israel and the IDF (military) are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents. We will continue to do so until our victory," Netanyahu's office said.
Asked in a radio interview about a hypothetical nuclear option, Eliyahu replied: "That's one way."
The comment drew swift condemnation, both inside and outside of Israel. The Hostages and Missing Persons and Families Forum, which represents the relatives of those taken hostage by Hamas, slammed Eliyahu's statements as "reckless and cruel."
Several Arab countries also decried Eliyahu's comments, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Arab League Chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said they were not only "racist" but also revealing of Israel's nuclear capability.
Israel has never acknowledged being a nuclear power.
"Not only does he admit that they possess a nuclear weapon, but he also confirms the reality of the Israelis' abhorrent racist view toward the Palestinian people," Abul Gheit said.
Eliyahu commented on the controversy on social media, saying his statements to the radio interview were clearly "metaphorical."
"However, a strong and disproportionate response to terrorism is definitely required, which will clarify to the Nazis and their supporters that terrorism is not worthwhile," he wrote.