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Smotrich clarifies call to ‘wipe out’ Huwara, says state must exact ‘heavy price’ for terrorism

The clarification comes after Washington slammed the finance minister’s comments as “repugnant” and called on Israel’s government to repudiate them.

Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich at party headquarters in Modi'in, on election night, March 23, 2021. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.
Religious Zionist Party head Bezalel Smotrich at party headquarters in Modi'in, on election night, March 23, 2021. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich clarified on Wednesday remarks he made calling for the Palestinian village of Huwara to be “wiped out” in response to a deadly terrorist attack that killed two Israelis on Sunday.

“To avoid any doubt, I did not intend to suggest erasing the village of Huwara; rather, to act in a focused manner against the terrorists and supporters of terrorism within it, and to exact a heavy price from them in order to restore security to the residents of the area,” tweeted Smotrich.

During a panel discussion earlier on Wednesday, Smotrich had said that Huwara “needs to be wiped out,” adding, “I think the State of Israel should do this and not—God forbid—private citizens.”

In response, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price described the remarks as “disgusting,” and called on Israel’s government to repudiate them.

“I want to be very clear about this. These comments were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting,” said Price. “And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence,” he added. “We call on Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments,” said Price.

On Sunday, Israeli brothers Hallel Menachem and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv were killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack near Huwara, which is located south of Nablus in Samaria. That night, a few hundred Jews rioted in the town, with some setting fire to Palestinian property and engaging in clashes with local Arabs.

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said that Sameh Aqtash, a 37-year-old man, was shot dead by “Israeli fire” during accompanying riots in Za’tara, south of Huwara. Aqtash’s brother told AFP that the fatal bullet was fired by Israeli soldiers, a claim the IDF has denied.

Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum slammed the rioting in Huwara, with President Isaac Herzog on Sunday night saying, “Taking the law into one’s own hands, rioting and committing violence against innocents—this is not our way, and I express my forceful condemnation. We must allow the IDF, police and security forces to apprehend the despicable terrorist and restore order immediately.”

The U.S. administration said on Monday that it expects Israel to prosecute those who participated in the riot and to compensate those whose homes and property were damaged or destroyed.

“We expect the Israeli government to ensure full accountability and legal prosecution of those responsible for these attacks in addition to compensation for the loss of homes and property,” said Price on Monday.

Also on Monday, Palestinian terrorists killed a dual American-Israeli man in a shooting attack near the town of Jericho near the Beit Ha’arava Junction.

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