Israel defense minister resigns over Gaza

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Israel’s defense minister has resigned over the cabinet’s decision to accept a ceasefire ending two days of fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, denounced the move as “surrendering to terror”.

He also criticized attempts to broker a long-term truce with the Hamas group.

Eight people were killed on Monday and Tuesday as militants fired 460 rockets towards Israel and Israeli forces bombed 160 targets in Gaza.

Hamas, which dominates Gaza, and other Palestinian militant groups announced on Tuesday afternoon that they had accepted an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire and would abide by it if Israel did too.

Israel’s security cabinet initially said only that it was ordering the military to continue its operations as required, but Mr Lieberman and another minister appeared to confirm it had agreed to accept a ceasefire when they denied supporting it.

The ceasefire was largely holding on Wednesday and schools and businesses in southern Israel reopened after no rocket attacks were reported overnight.

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.

Prime Minister Benjamin 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 resistance has defended itself and defended its people against Israeli aggression,” the group’s overall leader Ismail Haniya said.

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.