Russia’s foreign ministry says Israel appeared to have admitted that it has nuclear weapons and is willing to use them.
Russian officials have joined other countries in expressing concern over the remarks of an Israeli junior minister who appeared to express openness to the idea of Israel carrying out a nuclear strike on Gaza, saying that it raises a “huge number of questions”.
Moscow’s reaction came on Tuesday, days after Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu, said during a radio interview, that the nuclear option would be “one way” to deal with Gaza, implying that, not only is Israel in possession of nuclear weapons – something the country has never admitted – but that it is also willing to use them.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday suspended the minister from a far-right party in the coalition government and from cabinet meetings “until further notice”.
Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, said that the main issue was that Israel appeared to have admitted that it had nuclear weapons.
“Question number one – it turns out that we are hearing official statements about the presence of nuclear weapons?” Zakharova was quoted as saying by state RIA news agency.
If so, she said, then where are the International Atomic Energy Agency and international nuclear inspectors?
The Federation of American Scientists estimates Israel has about 90 nuclear warheads.
On Monday, the United States condemned Eliyahu’s comments as “wholly unacceptable”.
“We continue to believe that it is important for all sides of this conflict to refrain from hateful rhetoric,” deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel told a briefing.
The remarks also drew condemnation from around the Arab world and Iran called for a swift international response.
“The UN Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency must take immediate and uninterrupted action to disarm this barbaric and apartheid regime,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on social media on Monday. “Tomorrow is late,” he posted on X.