Israel minister walks back call for Palestinian town to be ‘wiped out’
Jerusalem — Israel’s finance minister said Saturday he had chosen his words poorly when he called for a Palestinian town to be “wiped out” after two Israeli settlers were killed there.
The two young settlers were shot dead on February 26 in their car in Huwara, a northern town in the West Bank, sparking attacks by Israeli settlers on the Palestinian town.
“I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out,” Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, had said on Wednesday.
“It is possible that the word was wrong,” Smotrich told local television on Saturday.
“I did not mean harm to innocents when I said that Huwara should be wiped out,” he tweeted Saturday.
Smotrich’s comments had drawn international condemnation, with the UN human rights chief Volker Turk denouncing them as “an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility”.
Washington, a staunch ally of Israel, was even more blunt in its response to Smotrich’s comments.
“They were irresponsible, they were repugnant, they were disgusting,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
Representatives from 19 countries — including France, Germany, Japan and the UK — visited Huwara on Saturday.
They “condemn in the strongest terms the heinous and violent acts committed by settlers,” a joint statement said.
The fatal shooting came days after Israeli forces launched their deadliest West Bank raid in nearly 20 years, which left 11 Palestinians dead in the northern city of Nablus.