Opposition parties in Israel have called on the Attorney-General to launch an investigation into a leading West Bank rabbi after he appeared to justify the destruction of Gaza on religious grounds.

Rabbi Dov Lior (pictured), who has previously endorsed a book justifying the killing of non-Jews, issued a religious ruling saying that Jewish law permits the destruction of Gaza to keep southern Israel safe.1

Lior, the chief rabbi of Hebron and Kiryat Arba, argued that in times of war, Israel was “allowed to punish the enemy” and to “take steps to exterminate the enemy”.

Citing the Maharel of Prague, a 16th Century rabbi and Talmudic scholar, Lior added that the defence minister “may even order the destruction of Gaza so that the south should no longer suffer.”

He added: “Talk of humanitarianism and consideration are nothing when weighed against saving our brothers.”

Left-liberal politicians were quick to condemn Lior for incitement, with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On calling his remarks “racist” and “not in the realm of free speech”.

She added: “We’re talking about a man who praises mass murder, who stands behind those who murder innocents and who took part in the incitement that led to the murder of a prime minister [Yitzhak Rabin].

“There is therefore a real concern that these comments will become a genuine threat to the lives of more innocent people.”