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Russia says Israeli nuclear remark raises ‘huge number of questions’

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zakharova attends a news conference in Moscow

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

MOSCOW, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that a remark by an Israeli junior minister who appeared to express openness to the idea of Israel carrying out a nuclear strike on Gaza had raised a huge number of questions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday suspended Heritage Minister Amihay Eliyahu, from a far-right party in the coalition government, from cabinet meetings “until further notice”.

Asked in a radio interview about a hypothetical nuclear option, Eliyahu had replied: “That’s one way.”

“This has raised a huge number of questions,” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, was quoted as saying by state RIA news agency.

Zakharova said the main issue was that Israel appeared to have admitted that it had nuclear weapons.

Israel does not publicly acknowledge it has nuclear weapons though the Federation of American Scientists estimates Israel has about 90 nuclear warheads.

“Question number one – it turns out that we are hearing official statements about the presence of nuclear weapons?” Zakharova said.

If so, she said, then where are the International Atomic Energy Agency and international nuclear inspectors?

Eliyahu remark drew condemnation from around the Arab world, scandalised mainstream Israeli broadcasters, was deemed “objectionable” by a U.S. official, 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. Tomorrow is late,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on platform X on Monday.

Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Tomasz Janowski

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