Israel government in turmoil as defence minister quits and calls for elections over Gaza ceasefire

Israel appeared to be hurtling towards early elections on Wednesday after the defence minister resigned and accused Benjamin Netanyahu of “surrendering to terror” by agreeing to a ceasefire with Hamas. The resignation of Avigdor Lieberman, a hawkish member of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition, leaves the government with just a one-seat majority that could collapse if other parties also decide to quit. Mr Netanyahu’s allies said he planned to take over the defence ministry himself, meaning he would simultaneously serve as Israel’s prime minister, defence minister, foreign minister and health minister. But Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Right-wing Jewish Home party, demanded the defence portfolio for himself and threatened to bring down the government if he was not given the post. The day of political drama began when Mr Lieberman resigned on Wednesday afternoon over Mr Netanyahu’s decision decision to accept a ceasefire with Hamas to end 24 hours of intense fighting. Mr Lieberman said the Israeli government should confront the Islamist militant group more forcefully even if it meant suffering more rocket fire into Israeli cities. The resignation of Avigdor Lieberman, one of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition partners, has rocked the Israeli government and could trigger fresh elections in the Jewish state Credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad “What happened yesterday – the truce combined with the process with Hamas – is surrendering to terror,” he said. “What we’re doing now as a state is buying short-term quiet, with the price being severe long-term damage to national security.” Mr Lieberman withdrew his five Yisrael Beiteinu MPs from Mr Netanyahu’s coalition, meaning the government now has only 61 seats in the 120-member parliament. He also called for early elections. Mr Netanyahu had been bracing for attacks from the Right since agreeing to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal on Tuesday, ending the fighting which left one person dead in Israel and seven dead in Gaza. Residents of the southern city of Sderot, a regular target for Hamas’ rockets, burned tires and blocked the streets in protest at the ceasefire, saying Israel was being held hostage by Hamas. Speaking before the defence minister’s resignation, Mr Netanyahu defended the agreement and said the public could not understand all the reasons for his decision. #BREAKING: 500 Protesters in the southern city of Sderot after the decision on a ceasefire: “We have become a hostage of Hamas – they will decide …read more

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Top Asian News 3:28 p.m. GMT

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — More than 20 years after his father almost bargained them away for a pair of nuclear reactors, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has his nuclear weapons — and a nation still plagued by chronic blackouts. Even on the clearest days, plumes of smoke from two towering chimneys linger over the center of Pyongyang. The Soviet-era Pyongyang Combined Heat and Power Plant smokestacks are one of the North Korean capital’s most recognizable landmarks. Possibly more than anything else, this is Kim Jong Un’s Achilles heel as he turns his attention from developing the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal to building its economy.

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