ISRAELI Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman abruptly resigned on Wednesday in protest over a ceasefire in Gaza.
The move rocked the Israeli political scene and seemed likely to bring about early elections.
Lieberman said the ceasefire amounted to "surrender to terrorism" after two days of heavy fighting, and that he could no longer serve a government that endorsed it.
He had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the most intense round of rocket fire against Israel since the 50-day war of 2014.
But he appeared to have been overruled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
His resignation delivers a major blow to Benjamin Netan- yahu's coalition.
The party of another Netanyahu rival, Naftali Bennett, has said that if he is not made defence minister, it will also quit the coalition - which would trigger elections.
Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, will take over the defence portfolio on an interim basis.
OFF THE AIR: The al-Aqsa TV station building in Gaza is wrecked by Israeli airstrikes |
The crisis followed the ceasefire with Hamas and Islamic Jihad after southern Israel had been pummelled with 500 rockets while Israeli warplanes struck 160 targets within 25 hours inside the Gaza Strip.
Angry Israelis in border communities burned tyres in protest when they heard of Tuesday's ceasefire.
Reut Bassis, who lives in rocket-battered Sderot, said: "I know that a month from now it will be the same thing again."
Smarting from the effects of Israel's deadly firepower, the Gaza terror groups eagerly accepted the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire. Israel's security cabinet, though, took six hours to ponder: War or a ceasefire?
Hamas warned menacingly: "Approximately one million Zionists will be within the range of our missiles if the Zionist enemy's decision is to continue its aggression."
Another Hamas official said: "If Israel continues its bombardments of Gaza, the cities of Ashdod and Beersheba are next in line. And Islamic Jihad threatened to attack Tel Aviv.
Seven Palestinians were killed in the devastating Israeli strikes.
A 48-year-old Palestinian workman was killed in the Israeli city of Ashkelon as several rockets landed inside the city, scoring direct hits on buildings and homes.
The attack on Ashkelon included a new type of rocket.
The Gazans' push for a ceasefire followed relentless Israeli air strikes on key targets, including the al-Aqsa TV station, which had been used to encourage terrorist activities.
At the height of the flare-up, Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted about 100 rockets as thousands of Israeli civilians fled to bomb shelters.
A 19-year-old Israeli soldier was seriously wounded when a military bus was hit with an anti-tank missile near the Gaza border.
A MISSILE set this Israeli army bus alight, injuring a soldier|
He later underwent two operations. The Arab-Israeli driver of the bus said: "Minutes before my bus was hit, 50 Israeli soldiers deboarded. They would all have died. It's a miracle."
The bitter flare-up began after an Israeli intelligence-gathering mission by special forces inside Gaza went horribly wrong on Sunday night.
The Israelis were apparently pretending to be Palestinians, but were stopped at a checkpoint near the city of Khan Younis.
Shooting broke out and an Israeli officer, named only as Lt Col M, was killed.
A Hamas commander and six other Palestinians were also killed.
With tears in his eyes, President Reuven Rivlin said as Lt Col M was buried at Mt Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on Monday: "M was one of the bravest and most daring soldiers and commanders of the State of Israel and he fell defending the citizens of Israel, the children of Israel."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut short a trip to France and returned home after the commando raid went wrong.
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