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Dead hostages claim, Israeli minister quits

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz says he is withdrawing from Israel's unity government.

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz says he is withdrawing from Israel's unity government. Photo: AAP

Hamas’ armed al-Qassam Brigades claims in a video posted on its Telegram channel that three hostages were killed, including a US citizen, in an Israeli military operation in which some hostages were freed.

The group did not release the names of those said to be killed but the video showed what appeared to be three unidentifiable corpses using censor bars over their faces.

“Your captives will not be released unless our prisoners are freed,” the video added.

Israel rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a hostage-freeing operation in central Gaza’s al-Nuseirat on Saturday which killed 274 Palestinians.

A Hamas assertion on Saturday that some hostages were killed in the operation was dismissed shortly afterwards as a “blatant lie” by an Israeli military spokesman

The Palestinian death toll is the worst over a 24-hour period of the Gaza war for months and including many women and children, Palestinian medics said.

Only centrist power quits

Meanwhile, 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 nationalist-religious coalition.

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 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, a former armed forces chief and defence minister, heads the centrist National Unity party which holds eight seats.

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 the four hostages.

Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, the largest faction, has 32 parliament seats.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant is a member of the party and has clashed with Netanyahu and some nationalists in the government over Gaza strategy.

Settler party Religious Zionism, headed by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, holds seven seats.

Ultranationalist Jewish Power, headed by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Noam hold six and one seats respectively.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties Shas and United Torah Judaism hold 11 and seven seats respectively.

—AAP

Topics: Israel
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