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Nikki Haley criticized for writing ‘Finish Them!’ on artillery shell in Israel

Nikki Haley took a purple pen, crouched down in a tactical vest and signed an artillery shell while visiting Israel this week. “Finish Them!” she wrote.

The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Republican presidential candidate penned the message Tuesday while touring an artillery station along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. It was part of a days-long trip to the country during which she has met with families of some of the roughly 1,200 people killed and 253 taken hostage when Hamas attacked on Oct. 7. Haley toured the wreckage caused by the attack and visited the site of the Nova music festival in southern Israel where partygoers were killed and kidnapped.

Haley and representatives from her defunct presidential campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post.

In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, which is run by Republican mega donor Miriam Adelson, Haley echoed her message on the bomb.

“We know as long as Hamas exits, it can happen again, and that’s why I’ve said from the very beginning, you need to finish them — once and for all,” she said. Haley spoke with the newspaper Monday after visiting Nir Oz, where more than one-quarter of residents were either killed or kidnapped on Oct. 7.

Haley’s visit comes as Israeli leaders face intensifying criticism that they’re not doing enough to protect civilians in Gaza and may have committed war crimes during the country’s war against Hamas. It also follows a recent Israeli airstrike that started a fire in a camp for displaced Palestinians. Weapons experts said U.S.-made bombs were used in the strike.

On Tuesday, Danny Danon, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and the country’s former representative to the United Nations, posted photos to X showing him accompanying Haley to the artillery station. The photos show Haley writing the “Finish Them!” message, followed by: “America [heart] Israel. Always, Nikki Haley.”

Haley said last week she will vote for former president Donald Trump in the November election. In a March interview with the Israel Hayom, Trump said, “You have to finish up your war. To finish it up. You gotta get it done.”

Criticism quickly followed the images of Haley writing on the artillery shell.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International USA shared the images with a message about how conflict zones are “no place for stunts.” And the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned her for writing “a violent message” two days after an Israeli airstrike on a tent camp in Rafah killed at least 45 people. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the attack a “tragic accident” after the Israeli military repeatedly described it as a targeted strike on a Hamas compound using “precise munitions” and “precise intelligence.”

Haley has been a staunch supporter of Israel for years. In October, when she was still pursuing the Republican presidential nomination, she spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition summit, where she said she would never criticize Israel’s prime minister “in the middle of tragedy and war.”

Last week, she chastised the Biden administration’s decision to withhold weapons from Israel, saying that doing so “validates the totally false and destructive narrative that Israel is acting unjustly by defending herself,” adding that she thinks Israel “is conducting its war of self-defense more humanely than any army in history.”

During a 2017 visit to Israel as U.N. ambassador during the Trump administration, Haley told Netanyahu that the United Nations bullies Israel. Her comment came a day after she said that the United States might withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council unless it changed its ways in general and its negative stance on Israel in particular, The Post reported at the time.

And in 2018, Haley defended Israel during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council as Israel faced harsh criticism from around the world for shooting Palestinians who were protesting at the Gaza border during clashes that killed at least 60.

“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council: Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?” Haley said at the time. “No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”

Haley continued her defense of Israel during her latest visit.

“When Hamas promises they will do it again, Israel should believe them,” she wrote Wednesday on X. “Israel must do whatever is necessary to protect her people from evil. Americans must remember that when Iran and Hamas chant ‘Death to Israel’ they also promise ‘Death to America’. Israel is fighting America’s enemies.”

Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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