Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday announced his resignation from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government a day after an indirectly closed agreement with Palestinian groups for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.
The ultranationalist minister denounced the ceasefire as a “capitulation to terrorism” before the press. “The State purchases tranquility in the short term at the price of serious long-term damages for national security,” he said.
Lieberman also called early elections in his country on Wednesday, after announcing his resignation due to a controversial ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. “We should agree on a date for elections as quickly as possible,” Lieberman told reporters after harshly criticizing the ceasefire defended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Shortly before the announcement of his defense minister and in response to the criticism of the truce, Netanyahu had to explain himself.
“In periods of urgency, the public does not always know why decisions are essential for the security of the country, and these decisions must remain secret to the enemy,” he said.
“Our enemies begged us to accept this ceasefire and they know very well why they did it,” he added.
The Islamist movement Hamas and Palestinian Islamist groups announced on Tuesday a ceasefire with Israel, reached under the auspices of Egypt, after one of the worst confrontations between the two sides since the war of 2014.
“The efforts of Egypt allowed to reach a cease-fire between the resistance and the Zionist enemy, and the resistance will respect it as long as the Zionist enemy does it,” the groups announced in a joint statement.
In the Gaza Strip there was relative calm on Tuesday night and schools, closed during the day, were scheduled to open on Wednesday, according to an AFP journalist.
After the announcement of the ceasefire, thousands of Gazans participated in jubilant demonstrations at various points in the enclave to proclaim the “victory over Israel.”
At the moment, no confirmation was obtained from Israel, which does not usually comment on ads of this type. Only Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman issued a statement to deny having supported the cessation of Israeli operations.
In Egypt, historical mediator in Gaza, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Israel, in a statement released after the announcement, “immediately cease all forms of military action.”
Situation “very precarious”
According to a diplomatic source familiar with the agreement, Israel and Hamas pledged to return “to the provisions of the 2014 agreement” after a deadly war that confronted them during the summer of that year.
This source, however, warned that the situation was “very precarious” and could explode “again”. Since Monday afternoon, a new escalation of violence in Gaza and nearby Israeli areas fears the outbreak of a fourth war since 2008 in the enclave.
Among all the recent upsurges in violence, this is the one that most threatened the efforts of the UN and Egypt to achieve a durable truce between Israel and Hamas.
On Tuesday, although rockets continued to be fired from the Palestinian territory into Israel, from where the bombardments against military positions in the Strip continued, the exchanges were of less intensity.
During the night, tens of thousands of Israelis from Ashkelon and other locations near the enclave had been running unceasingly to the shelters alerted by the sirens.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli attacks were heard all night, destroying several buildings, including the headquarters of Hamas television or the offices of a security service.
The Israeli army has counted some 460 rocket fire since Monday at mid-day. In response, he said he had attacked about 160 military positions of the Islamist movement Hamas and its ally, the Islamic Jihad.
Israel faces “no doubt the most intense rocket fire since the summer of 2014 (…) and the most serious attack by terrorist organizations against Israeli civilian populations,” said an army spokesman, the lieutenant-colonel Jonathan Conricus.
The Israeli army sent reinforcements of infantry and armored vehicles and deployed new anti-missile batteries, although at the moment it did not appeal to reservists, as it did in 2014. An AFP journalist saw tanks heading towards the Strip.
The Palestinian armed groups and the Israeli army exchanged threats and the armed wing of Hamas, the brigades of Ezzeldin Al Qasam, warned that it would expand its field of action based on the response of the Hebrew State.
The escalation began on Sunday with an infiltration by Israeli special forces, an operation that ended with the death of an Israeli lieutenant-colonel and seven Palestinians, including a commander of the armed wing of Hamas.
In retaliation, the Al Qasam brigades seriously wounded a soldier in an attack with an anti-tank missile, triggering the Israeli response.
Dozens of Israelis were slightly injured, mostly by shrapnel, according to the relief services. In Ashkelon, a Palestinian worker from the West Bank, identified as Mahmud Abu Asba, 48, died.
The Gaza Strip has been living under tension since March and at least 234 Palestinians have died since then. Two Israeli soldiers also died.