Blow to Netanyahu as Israeli defense minister resigns over Gaza truce

Blow to Netanyahu as Israeli defense minister resigns over Gaza truce

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has resigned out of protest, following the country's cease-fire with Hamas in Gaza.

The truce, announced Tuesday by Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, came after almost two days of heavy shelling from both sides that had threatened to descend into full-blown war.

But late on Tuesday, the joint command of the Palestinian armed factions in Gaza said in a statement they would abide by a ceasefire "as long as the Zionist enemy does the same".

This contradicted a government leak, most likely from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, that acceptance of the ceasefire had been unanimous.

Israel's hardline defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, issued a statement saying he did not support stopping the strikes.

Renewed violence in Gaza threatened to thwart efforts to end months of unrest as Israeli air strikes killed four Palestinians and destroyed a Hamas TV building while a barrage of rocket fire from the enclave left one dead on November 13.

Rocket attacks from Gaza sent residents of southern Israel to shelters, wounding dozens and killing a Palestinian laborer from the occupied West Bank. The group issued a statement saying, "This is a political victory for Gaza, which caused this political natural disaster within the occupation".

The flare-up follows a clash that erupted during an Israeli special forces operation in the Gaza Strip the previous night that killed eight people of Hamas movement. More than 230 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. The Associated Press says Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, majority unarmed.

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The ceasefire was largely holding on Wednesday and schools and businesses in southern Israel reopened after no rocket attacks were reported overnight. Israel had stressed the operation was an intelligence-gathering mission and "not meant to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security". Over the weekend, some Gaza neighborhoods enjoyed 8 hours of electricity, a massive triumph for many people.

A woman, bleeding, covered in debris lying near the body of a civilian man, emerged from rubble on Tuesday after a rocket hit a house in the city of Ashkelon.

Polls suggest he and his Likud would be favourites should polls be called, with Netanyahu's reputation as Israel's "Mr. Security" still valued among voters, though it's unclear if the recent Gaza escalation will affect that.

"What happened was like an natural disaster", said Abu Ayman Lemzeni, who lives near the targeted TV building.

Lieberman added that he also vehemently objected to Israel's allowing Qatar to deliver $15 million to the financially-crippled Gaza Strip to pay the salaries of government workers and civil servants last week.

He also said the riots at the Gaza border will continue during the cease-fire.

Since March 30, thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have gathered at weekly protests along the Israeli border to demand a lifting of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and an improved humanitarian situation.

Their disagreement came to a head with Tuesday's ceasefire that ended the worst escalation between Israeli and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.

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