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Israel's Defense Minister Resigns Over Ceasefire 'Surrender to Terrorism'

Avigdor Liberman resigns as Israel's Foreign Minister.
Avigdor Liberman resigns as Israel's Foreign Minister.

JERUSALEM, Israel All was quiet on Israel’s southern front on Wednesday a day after Hamas unleashed the worst attack on Israel in years. But the political fallout from the ceasefire agreement could be huge for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday over an Egyptian and UN brokered ceasefire agreement, saying that it was “surrender to terrorism.”

“The question asked is why now,” Lieberman said at a press conference on Wednesday.  

“For me, what happened yesterday the ceasefire yesterday combined with the long-term deal with Hamas is a surrender to terrorism. There's no other definition, no other meaning, but surrender to terrorism,” he said.

Former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Lieberman also cited the earlier decision to allow $15 million in cash from Qatar to be transferred in suitcases across the border to Hamas as the second factor forcing his decision.

Lieberman’s party will now move to the opposition. That gives Netanyahu only a very slim majority in his coalition, which could bring about the collapse of his government and force early elections.

Before Lieberman’s resignation, Netanyahu defended the ceasefire.

"I see the big picture of Israeli security that I cannot share with the public, I wish I could share everything I know,” Netanyahu said at a memorial ceremony for Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

“But in the security of Israel, more is hidden than known. Our enemies [Gaza's Hamas rulers] begged for a ceasefire and they know well why. I cannot detail our plans for the future. We will dictate the times and circumstances that are right for Israel and are right for the security of our people,” Netanyahu said.

Hamas and other Islamic terror groups launched some 460 rockets at Israel over a 24-hour period earlier this week, killing one person and injuring some 70 others.  Israel responded with 160 airstrikes on military targets in Gaza.

For years, Hamas has launched rockets at southern Israeli communities. Since March, Israelis have been subjected to intense periods of rocket attacks as well as fire kite and balloon attacks that have burned thousands of acres of farmland and nature reserves.

Hamas Rockets Launched at Israel

Israelis and Gazans had different reactions to the ceasefire.

Hamas official Ismail Radwan called it a triumph.

“This constitutes a victory for the resistance and recognition of defeat and failure by Lieberman and the Zionist occupation,” Radwan said. 

“It's a fallout of the disgraceful crime in Khan Younis in which the occupation tried to agitate the Palestinian arena and it's a failure of the policy of siege and devastating wars against the Gaza Strip. This is the result of our Palestinian people's steadfastness,” he added.

Gazans mounted a huge victory rally in the streets near the former Hamas television station, bombed during a retaliatory strike by Israel. 

Meanwhile, Israelis in the south protested the ceasefire, with hundreds of residents blocking the road near the southern Israeli town of Sderot, often called the “bomb shelter capital of the world.” 

Sderot residents were speaking their mind.  

“It only lets us suffer, nothing more. We are third class [citizens] here in Sderot and [so are] the communities at the border with Gaza, not only Sderot,” said David Maimon. “It's a shame instead of helping us, let us live quietly, they let us suffer. We only suffer, for 18 years we have been suffering,”

"I will never vote for Netanyahu. People here are traumatized. Gaza is victorious, what is this nonsense, it can't continue like this,” said another Sderot resident Herzl Zigzag.

About a million Israelis live in the area that is subject to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

For now, Netanyahu remains in power but the next weeks and months will tell whether the tense calm in the south and shaky government in Jerusalem will hold.

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