Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment in the Maghazi refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023. AP
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Sunday suspended Heritage Minister Amichay Eliyahu from government meetings until further notice, saying that Israel wanted to spare non-combatants in its bombardment of Gaza.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government have repudiated those comments which we also found as wholly unacceptable," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.
"We continue to believe that it is important for all sides of this war to refrain from hateful rhetoric that is going to further incite tensions," he said.
Eliyahu in an interview with Israel's Kol Barama radio had said he was not entirely satisfied with the scale of Israel's retaliation.
When the interviewer asked whether he advocated dropping "some kind of atomic bomb" on Gaza "to kill everyone," Eliyahu replied: "That's one option."
Eliyahu later said his statement was "metaphorical." Israel is widely known to have nuclear weapons but has never admitted so.
The remarks prompted outrage in the Arab world with Saudi Arabia, which before the crisis had been in preliminary talks to recognize Israel, criticizing the Netanyahu government for not dismissing Eliyahu.
"Failing to immediately dismiss the minister from the government and simply freezing his membership reflects the height of disdain for all human, moral, religious and legal standards and values of the Israeli government," the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.
Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Eliyahu's remarks reveal that "Israel possesses nuclear weapons, which is an open secret".
"But it confirms the truth of the racist view Israelis hold against Palestinians. This is the true face of the occupation government."
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed the call of an ultra-right Israeli minister to “drop a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip” as evidence of the “extent of deviation and extremism” of some decision-makers in the Israeli government.
“It is the international community's responsibility to firmly confront this discourse of violence, hatred, and racism,” said Egypt’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid in a short statement on Sunday.
“While the world discusses nuclear disarmament and its dangers, some seem eager for more destruction and death,” added Abu Zeid.
Jordan said the minister's remarks "were a call for genocide and a hate crime against the Palestinians."
Since 7 October, Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, heavily bombed Gaza and launched a ground invasion on the north of the besieged territory, killing more than 10,000 Palestinians, including 4,104 children, more than 2,600 women, and 600 elderly, while injuring more than 24,000, and displacing more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people.