Israeli far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich's remarks that "Huwara needs to be erased" are repugnant and disgusting, says State Department spokesperson Ned Price.

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's finance minister and an extreme-right illegal settler lives near Nablus in occupied West Bank.
Bezalel Smotrich, Israel's finance minister and an extreme-right illegal settler lives near Nablus in occupied West Bank. (Reuters Archive)

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's call for a village in Palestine to be "erased" amounted to incitement to violence and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must publicly disavow it, the US State Department has said.

A hardliner in Netanyahu's far-right coalition, Smotrich made the comments at a conference on Wednesday amid a spate of Israeli violence in the occupied West Bank.

Asked about a weekend rampage by illegal settlers through the Palestinian village of Huwara, which an Israeli general on Tuesday described as a "pogrom," Smotrich said, "I think that Huwara needs to be erased".

Smotrich added, "I think that the state of Israel needs to do it, but God forbid not individual people."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that Smotrich's comments "were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting."

Price continued, "And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence."

Palestinian leaders welcomed the State Department reaction.

Smotrich, an extreme-right illegal settler, lives near Nablus in occupied West Bank.

Israel's police have arrested 10 people for suspected involvement in the Huwara attack in which one Palestinian was killed.

On 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.

READ MORE: Palestine seeks UNSC protection after illegal Israeli settlers storm Huwara

READ MORE: Israeli settlers injure dozens of Palestinians in occupied West Bank

Smotrich won't retract his call

After making the Huwara comments, Smotrich issued a statement saying the media had misinterpreted them, without retracting his call for the village to be erased.

"I spoke about how Huwara is a hostile village that has become a terrorist outpost," Smotrich said, adding it was forbidden to take the law into one's own hands.

"I support a disproportionate response by the [Israeli military] and the security forces to every act of terrorism," including the "deportation of the families of the terrorists," Smotrich added.

Smotrich's comments underlined the gulf between international calls for de-escalation and the instincts of major sections of Netanyahu's far-right government who have called for tougher action against Palestinians.

On Sunday, hundreds of illegal settlers escorted by Israeli troops raided Huwara town and adjacent villages, setting fire to homes and cars and wounding nearly 400 residents of occupied West Bank.

Israeli and Palestinian estimates indicate there are about 700,000 illegal settlers living in 164 settlements and 116 outposts in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

Under international law, all Jewish settlements in occupied territories are illegal.

READ MORE: Israeli PM says will not freeze building settlements in occupied West Bank

Source: Reuters