Arab Nations, China, Iran Condemn Israeli Minister’s Statement About Dropping Nuclear Bomb on Gaza 

A view of damaged buildings in Gaza following artillery strikes, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, November 14, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of damaged buildings in Gaza following artillery strikes, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, November 14, 2023. (Reuters)
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Arab Nations, China, Iran Condemn Israeli Minister’s Statement About Dropping Nuclear Bomb on Gaza 

A view of damaged buildings in Gaza following artillery strikes, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, November 14, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of damaged buildings in Gaza following artillery strikes, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, November 14, 2023. (Reuters)

Several Arab nations, China and Iran condemned an Israeli minister’s statement that a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was an option in the Israel-Hamas war, calling it a threat to the world.

At Monday’s long-planned opening of a United Nations conference whose goal is to establish a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East, many ambassadors expressed condemnations and criticisms of comments by Israel’s Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu, who later called his remarks in a radio interview Sunday “metaphorical.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu quickly disavowed the comments and suspended him from cabinet meetings.

Israel has neither confirmed nor denied its nuclear capability. It is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, and a former employee at its nuclear reactor served 18 years in Israeli prison for leaking details and pictures of Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal program to a British newspaper in 1986.

China’s deputy UN ambassador Geng Shuang said Beijing was “shocked,” calling the statements “extremely irresponsible and disturbing” and should be universally condemned.

He urged Israeli officials to retract the statement and become a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament, as a non-nuclear weapon state “as soon as possible.”

Geng said China is ready to join other countries “to inject new impetus” to establishing a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, saying there is greater urgency because of the situation in the current region.

UN disarmament chief Izumi Nakamitsu, who opened Monday’s fourth conference, didn’t mention Israel. But she said: “Any threat to use nuclear weapons is inadmissible.”

Nakamitsu reiterated the “urgency ... of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction,” stressing that “cool heads and diplomatic efforts” must prevail to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, based on a two-state solution.

Oman’s UN Ambassador Mohamed Al-Hassan, speaking on behalf of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, said the threat to use nuclear weapons in Gaza “reaffirms the extremes and brutality of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people” and their “disregard for innocent life.” He called on the UNSecurity Council and the IAEA to take decisive action on the matter.

Lebanon’s Charge d’Affaires Hadi Hachem also condemned the Israeli heritage minister’s comments, stressing that “this self-acknowledgment of having nuclear weapons and the threat of using them by its officials, poses a serious threat to both regional and international peace and security.”

He urged Israel to stop “such rhetoric or posturing” and join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state.

Iran’s UN Ambassador Amir Iravani told the conference the nuclear threats directed toward Palestinians by high-ranking Israeli officials highlight Israel’s “pride” in having these weapons in its hands.

“The secrecy surrounding Israel’s nuclear capabilities poses a significant threat to regional stability,” he said. “In these critical times, the imperative to establish such a zone in the Middle East has never been more urgent.”

Israel did not speak Monday, but Netanyahu has said his country's biggest threat remains the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, and it is prepared to prevent that from happening.

Efforts to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone date back to the 1960s and include a call by parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1995 and a 1998 General Assembly resolution asking countries to contribute to establishing it. The first UN conference aimed at creating a zone was held in November 2019.

Russia’s ambassador to the IAEA and other UN organizations based in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, told delegates Monday that given the new escalation of violence in the Middle East, a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region “is more pertinent than ever.”

But he said Moscow is “extremely uncomfortable” that along with the two other sponsors of the 1995 resolution – the United States and the United Kingdom – the promise to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East has not been met after almost 30 years. And for more than 20 years, “there’s been almost no progress whatsoever,” he said.



Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israel Carries Out New Raids in Gaza as Netanyahu Visits US 

This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Younis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli forces carried out new raids in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to address the US Congress.

The latest Israeli attacks destroyed homes in towns east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza and thousands of people were forced to head west to seek shelter, residents said.

The Palestinian Civil Emergency Service said it had received distress calls from residents trapped in their homes in Bani Suhaila, east of Khan Younis, but were unable to reach the town.

Israel's military, which is trying to eradicate the armed group Hamas after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said it had been operating in areas from which fighters had been able to fire rockets into Israel and attack Israeli troops.

Gaza health officials said Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours had killed at least 55 people, the latest casualties in a war that health authorities in the enclave say has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians.

"Where should we go? Shall we cross into the sea?" said Ghada, who has been displaced with her family six times during the war, said from Hamas City in northwestern Khan Younis.

"We are exhausted, starved, and want the war to end now, now not an hour later. Every day means more families are wiped off the registration book," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Local residents said they had been ordered to head west towards a designated humanitarian area, but that the area was now unsafe.

Israeli forces also carried out airstrikes on several areas of central and northern Gaza Strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, health officials said.

Residents of Rafah, near the border with Egypt, said Israeli forces had blown up several houses in the west of the city.

PALESTINIANS CRITICISE U.S.

Hamas-led fighters triggered the war on Oct. 7 by storming into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 captives, according to Israeli tallies. Some 120 hostages are still being held though Israel believes one in three are dead.

Some Palestinians who gathered at a hospital in Khan Younis before funerals criticized the United States, Israel's most important international ally, for welcoming Netanyahu.

The Israel leader was due to address Congress later on Wednesday and to meet President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he would meet Netanyahu in Florida on Friday.

"The United States is a main partner in what is happening in Gaza. We are being killed because of the United States. We are being slaughtered by American planes, American ships, American tanks, and American troops," said Kazem Abu Taha, a displaced resident from Rafah.

A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters: "The Congress invitation to Netanyahu to make a speech gives legitimacy to the crimes of the war of genocide in Gaza. Receiving a war criminal is a shame to all Americans."

Israel has rejected accusations brought by South Africa at the UN's top court that its military operation in Gaza is a state-led genocide campaign against Palestinians. It has reacted angrily to a decision by the International Criminal Court's prosecutor to seek an arrest warrant against Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said this week a deal to release Israelis held captive in Gaza could be near. But Hamas officials said Netanyahu was stalling and that they had not seen any change in the Israeli stance that would allow an agreement to be reached.

Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza. Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is eradicated.