Gaza truce holds but Israeli minister's resignation leaves government in turmoil

Far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman quits as truce comes into force

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman visits Gaza's Kerem Shalom crossing, the strip's main commercial border terminal, July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
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Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has resigned in protest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ceasefire with Hamas and other Gaza factions that came into effect on Wednesday and appeared to be holding.

Mr Lieberman told members of his nationalist party that he would be resigning, sparking a political crisis over what he called Mr Netanyahu's "capitulation" to Hamas. He also condemned the government's decision to send Qatari-bought fuel into Gaza. His decision takes effect 48 hours after he puts it in writing.

"What we're doing now as a state is buying short-term quiet, with the price being severe long-term damage to national security," Mr Lieberman said.

He added later: "We should agree on a date for elections as early as possible."

The Israeli leader has faced criticism from hard-right sections of his government and wider society following a truce agreed after the worst escalation in the coastal enclave since the 2014 war between the military and Hamas, the rulers of Gaza.

He rushed to defend his decision as criticism mounted and residents in southern Israel protested the ceasefire, with many clamouring for a new offensive in the besieged Strip to stop rocket fire that had been provoked by a botched undercover Israeli operation that left seven Palestinians and an Israeli officer dead.

"In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can't always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy," Mr Netanyahu said at a ceremony in honour of Israel's founding father David Ben-Gurion.

"Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why."


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As the truce largely held on Wednesday, the Israeli military said it shot and captured a Palestinian who approached the Gaza perimeter fence and hurled grenades into Israel, the first confrontation since the ceasefire began.

The news of the ceasefire was greeted with celebrations in Gaza, with Hamas declaring victory in the latest round of violence, which was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinian militants and a senior Israeli military officer dead.

The raid threatened to deal a major blow to Egyptian and UN mediation efforts but after the trading of Israeli strikes and Gazan rockets on Sunday and Monday, the two sides agreed to an unspecified period of quiet.

After Mr Lieberman's resignation, Mr Netanyahu could retain control of the defence portfolio, instead of giving it to another right-wing minister in his cabinet, Education Minister Naftali Bennett. But Mr Netanyahu will have only a precarious one-seat majority in parliament with the loss of the five seats that belong to Mr Lieberman's party, meaning that early elections are increasingly likely. Mr Lieberman demanded an early vote on Wednesday.