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Lieberman resigns as Israel’s minister of military affairs in opposition to Gaza deal

Israeli minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman speaks during a press conference in his office at the Knesset (parliament) in the occupied Jerusalem al-Quds on November 14, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli minister of military affairs Avigdor Lieberman has resigned from his post less than a day after Hamas and other resistance factions agreed to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel in Gaza Strip as the recent wave of Israeli aggression against the enclave had threatened to descend into full-blown war.

Announcing his decision in a news conference, the hawkish Israeli official described Tuesday's Gaza truce as “a capitulation to terror”.

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.

"It is no secret that there were differences between the prime minister and I," Lieberman said. "I did not agree to allow entry of Qatari money [into Gaza], and I had to allow it only after the prime minister announced it."

Lieberman, who heads Yisrael Beiteinu, will retake his Knesset seat following his resignation. Lieberman also said all of the members of his party will quit Israel's ruling coalition in the 120-member parliament. Yisrael Beiteinu's departure means Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu only holds a slender Knesset majority (61-59) seats to maintain the coalition.

Another key coalition partner in Netanyahu's government, Habayit Hayehudi (headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett), said that unless the defense portfolio goes to Bennett, the party will also quit the coalition.

He also called for elections to be held as soon as possible, saying he hopes a date will be set by Sunday.

Born in the former Soviet Union, Lieberman's voter base is made up of fellow Russian-speaking immigrants, and rightists and secularists who share his hostility to Palestinians.

Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri (Photo by Arabic-language Safa news agency)

'Political victory for Gaza'

Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a post published on his official Twitter page that the move is an Israeli “recognition of its defeat at the hands of the Palestinian resistance.”

Abu Zuhri further noted that Lieberman’s resignation constitutes a “political victory for Gaza” after it managed to “stand up to the Occupation (Israel).”

Gaza-based resistance groups announced a ceasefire with Israel in a joint statement on Tuesday evening, saying they would abide by the ceasefire as long as Israel did the same.

“Egypt's efforts have been able to achieve a ceasefire between the resistance and the Zionist enemy,” the statement read.

It added, “The resistance will respect this declaration as long as the Zionist enemy respects it.”

The latest spate of Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip saw 14 Palestinian killed and several others injured in 48 hours as the Israeli airstrikes and shells reduced buildings to rubble and sent fireballs and plumes of smoke into the sky.

A Palestinian stands amidst the rubble of the building housing the Hamas-run al-Aqsa TV television station, destroyed by an Israeli airstrike earlier this week, in the Gaza Strip on November 14, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

In early July 2014, Israel waged a war on the Gaza Strip. The 50-day military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children. Over 11,100 others – including 3,374 children, 2,088 women and 410 elderly people – were also wounded in the war.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty.

Tensions have been running high near the fence separating the Gaza Strip from the occupied territories ever since anti-occupation protest rallies began in the coastal enclave on March 30. More than 230 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Nearly 23,000 Palestinians have also sustained injuries.

The Gaza clashes reached their peak on May 14, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), which coincided this year with the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.

On June 13, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution, sponsored by Turkey and Algeria, condemning Israel for Palestinian civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip.

A wounded protester is evacuated during a demonstration near the border between Israeli-occupied territories and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 9, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The resolution, which had been put forward on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, garnered a strong majority of 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with eight votes against and 45 abstentions.

The resolution called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to make proposals within 60 days “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection, and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,” including “recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.”

It also called for “immediate steps towards ending the closure and the restrictions imposed by Israel on movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip.”

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