Israeli war cabinet minister quits emergency government

Benny Gantz speaks to media outside Carlton Gardens in London in March (Aaron Chown/PA Wire)
Benny Gantz speaks to media outside Carlton Gardens in London in March (Aaron Chown/PA Wire)

Israeli minister Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emergency government on Sunday, withdrawing the only centrist power in the embattled leader's far-right coalition, amid months of war in Gaza.

Netanyahu issued a brief statement calling on Gantz not to "abandon the front" but his departure will not endanger the parliamentary majority of 64 seats in the 120-seat Knesset held by the ruling right-wing coalition.

"Netanyahu is preventing us from advancing toward true victory. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today, with a heavy heart but with full confidence," Gantz said at a televised news conference.

Gantz's resignation had been expected ever since he presented the conservative prime minister with a June 8 deadline to come up with a clear day-after strategy for Gaza, where Israel has been pressing a devastating military offensive against the ruling Palestinian militant group Hamas.

His departure means that Netanyahu will lose the backing of a centrist bloc that has helped broaden support for the government in Israel and abroad, at a time of increasing diplomatic and domestic pressure eight months into the Gaza war.

Gantz had originally been expected to announce his resignation on Saturday but pushed back the statement following the dramatic rescue of four hostages by Israeli forces.

Soldiers rescued the hostages from two separate locations in the central Gaza area of al-Nuseirat, the military said.

The four hostages, three males and one female were kidnapped by Hamas-led militants from the Nova music festival in southern Israel on October 7 last year.

They were taken to hospital for medical checks, the military said, and were in good health.

They were identified as Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40.

After eight months of devastating war in Gaza precipitated by Hamas' October 7 attack, 116 of the around 250 hostages abducted by militants are left in the Palestinian enclave, according to Israeli tallies - at least 40 of whom have been declared dead in absentia by authorities.