Netanyahu defends Gaza ceasefire, says enemies 'begged' for it

Netanyahu defends Gaza ceasefire, says enemies 'begged' for it
The right-wing Netanyahu government has come under fire from hardliners for accepting a ceasefire after days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas.
3 min read
14 November, 2018
Israel's right-wing prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu [Getty]

Israel's PM Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday defended his decision to accept a ceasefire with Hamas, saying the country's enemies "begged" for it.

"In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy," he said at a ceremony honouring Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion. 

"Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why," he said.

The ceasefire has provoked criticism from within Netanyahu's right-wing government as well as from hardline Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip and want further military action against Hamas. 

Israel's military also said on Wednesday it shot and captured a Palestinian who approached the Gaza separation barrier. That incident marked the first confrontation since Hamas accepted the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to end two days of intense fighting that had pushed the sides to the brink of a fourth war in the last decade.

The military said it spotted the assailant with a knife and wire cutters and took him into custody after the grenades he hurled failed to explode.

The frontier was quiet overnight after the most intense round of fighting since Israel's 50-day siege on Gaza in 2014. Palestinian militants fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel in a 24-hour period, while the Israeli military carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. In Israel, one person was killed in a rocket strike and three were critically wounded.

Gaza's Hamas rulers had abruptly announced a ceasefire and Israel's Security Cabinet ended a seven-hour discussion with an apparent decision to hold its fire.

The news was greeted with celebrations in Gaza, with Hamas declaring victory in the latest round of violence, which was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinian militants and a senior Israeli military officer dead.

The Sunday raid involved an Israeli commando unit on an undercover mission that was caught behind enemy lines in Gaza. Hamas and other militant groups responded with a wave of rocket attacks the following day.

Separately, Palestinians have staged near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 that has ravaged the economy and will according to the UN make the enclave "unlivable" by 2020. 

At least 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the March protests began, a move that has drawn considerable international criticism for Israel's shooting of unarmed people. 

Over the same period, one Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper.

Netanyahu's Wednesday comments were presented as a unified decision to step back from a full-blown conflict and based on the military's recommendations. But two of the Security Cabinet's more hard-line members, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Lieberman began delivering a statement at 1:00pm local time in which he said he will resign from his post as defence minister.  

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