JERUSALEM: Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has hit back at ally the United States over its criticism of his push for the transfer of Gazans out of the Palestinian territory.

“The United States is our best friend, but first of all we will do what is best for the State of Israel: the migration of hundreds of thousands from Gaza will allow the (Israeli) residents of the envelope to return home and live in security and will protect the IDF (Israeli) soldiers,” the extreme-right minister posted on X late Tuesday.

His post comes after the US State Department criticised his call for a population transfer as “inflammatory and irresponsible”.

Killing of Hamas deputy leader in Beirut raises risk of Gaza war spreading

Washington has called out both Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who have called for Israeli settlers to return to Gaza and for the territory’s Palestinian inhabitants to leave.

“Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land,” the State Department said.

Expelling civilians during a conflict or creating unlivable conditions which force them to leave is a war crime.

The vast majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million residents have been forced out of their homes by nearly three months of fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Fighting between Hamas and Israel rages on, Palestinian death toll passes 22,000

The health ministry in Gaza says at least 22,185 people have been killed in the war, mostly civilians, while relentless strikes have left much of the territory in ruins.

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