Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has said that his comments to “wipe out” the Palestinian town of Huwara was a “slip of the tongue,” according to media reports.
The Times of Israel newspaper reported on Saturday that Smotrich told local media that his “word choice was wrong, but the intention was very clear.”
“It was a slip of the tongue in a storm of emotions,” he said.
Smotrich urged Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to “publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments.”
He said Huwara should be “wiped out” by the Israeli government after recent violence in occupied West Bank villages following the killing of two Israeli brothers.
Smotrich made the comments at a conference last Wednesday amid a spate of Israeli violence in the occupied West Bank.
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”.
The US slammed Smotrich’s remarks, saying it was “irresponsible”, “repugnant” and “disgusting.”
“Just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
Palestinian leaders welcomed the State Department reaction.
Last Wednesday, Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and arrested six others suspected of involvement in the fatal shooting of an Israeli American in the Israel-occupied West Bank on Monday.
Israel’s police have arrested 10 people for suspected involvement in the Huwara attack in which one Palestinian was killed.
Earlier last week, tensions increased, especially after the Palestinian town of Huwara came under attack by illegal Israeli settlers, hours after two Israelis were shot dead as they drove past.
Hundreds of rampaging settlers –– 300 to 400 people, according to the Israeli army –– set homes and cars ablaze, while a Palestinian man was killed in the nearby village of Zaatara.