Jerusalem, Nov 14 Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing disagreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over accepting a ceasefire with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip, after two days of intense airstrikes and rocket fire.
In a televised news conference, Liberman said that agreeing to a ceasefire was “surrendering to terror”, adding that his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party would withdraw from Netanyahu’s governing coalition, citing irreconcilable differences.
He has been a proponent of firm military action against Hamas, the Islamist militant group which controls the Gaza Strip, even if it risked a wider conflict.
Eight people were killed on Monday and Tuesday as militants fired 460 rockets towards Israel and Israeli forces bombed 160 targets in Gaza.
Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups announced on Tuesday that they had accepted an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire and would abide by it if Israel did too.
“There is no other definition, no other significance, but a surrender to terror,” Liberman was cited as saying by the BBC. “What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security.”
The continuity of Netanyahu’s government remained possible even without Yisrael Beiteinu, as the coalition would still have a thin 61-seat majority in the 120-seat Israeli Parliament.
Lieberman said that his decision was based on two fundamental disagreements with Netanyahu: The first was the Premier’s decision last week to allow Qatar to bring $15 million into Gaza to pay civil servants’ salaries and second was the Israeli government’s acceptance of the ceasefire.
The Gaza Strip remained calm on Wednesday as the truce appeared to be holding. However, Israel’s military said it had shot at and captured a Palestinian man who tried to breach the Israel-Gaza border fence while hurling grenades.
Dozens of residents of Israeli border communities, meanwhile, blocked roads in protest at what they called the “lack of action by the Israeli government” to deal with the threat of Palestinian rocket attacks.
Netanyahu defended the ceasefire decision, saying that “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”.
In Gaza, people celebrated the ceasefire, which Hamas portrayed as a victory.
The latest violence began after an Israeli special forces undercover operation in Gaza was exposed on Sunday, triggering clashes that left seven Palestinian militants and one Israeli soldier dead.
Nour Baraka, a commander from Hamas’ military wing, was also killed in the operation. – IANS