Israeli war cabinet member quits over lack of post-war Gaza plan

Israel’s war cabinet minister has resigned from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency government.

Benny Gantz said leaving his post was a “complex and painful decision” to make but Mr Netanyahu was “preventing real victory” over Hamas, the militant group Israel has been fighting in Gaza for the past eight months.

Mr Gantz, one of Israel’s three war cabinet ministers, said during a televised news conference on Sunday that he was leaving “with a heavy heart but with full confidence”.

Mr Gantz called on the PM to set an election date as he was making “total victory impossible”, while also saying the government must put the return of the hostages seized by Hamas “above political survival”.

Follow live: Three Israeli hostages killed during rescue operation – Hamas

Mr Netanyahu has responded to Mr Gantz’s resignation, saying “this is not time to abandon the front”.

The popular former military chief’s resignation had been expected as last month, he gave Mr Netanyahu an 8 June deadline to present a clear day-after plan for the conflict in Gaza.

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FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a press conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 28, 2023. Top Israeli officials are accused of seven war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Israel’s PM reacted to Mr Gantz’s resignation. File pic: AP

Israel has been at war with Hamas in Gaza since 7 October, when the militant group carried out a massacre in southern Israel which saw 1,200 people killed and 250 taken hostage.

About 120 hostages remain in Gaza, with 43 pronounced dead.

Mr Gantz had originally been expected to announce his resignation on Saturday but pushed back the statement following the dramatic rescue of four hostages.

The hostages, however, were rescued in an operation which the armed wing of Hamas said has also killed three other hostages.

In a post on Telegram earlier on Sunday, the militant group said one of the captives killed was a US citizen.

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Among the demonstrators was a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty while holding a sign reading ‘Hostage deal now.’

The rescue operation involved a devastating raid at the Nuseirat refugee camp, which claimed the lives of 274 Palestinians, Gaza’s health ministry said.

The departure of Mr Gantz’s centrist party would not pose an immediate threat to Mr Netanyahu’s governing coalition, which controls 64 of parliament’s 120 seats, but it could have a serious impact nonetheless.

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With Mr Gantz gone, Mr Netanyahu would lose the backing of a centrist bloc that has helped broaden support for the government in Israel and abroad, at a time of increasing diplomatic and domestic pressure eight months into the Gaza war.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, according to the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The war cabinet minister’s resignation will see Mr Netanyahu having to rely more heavily on the political backing of ultra-nationalist parties, whose leaders angered Washington even before the war and who have since called for a return to a complete Israeli occupation of Gaza.

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