Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and centrist opposition leader Benny Gantz have agreed to form an emergency unity government.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former defence minister and military chief of staff, agreed to form a war cabinet comprising Netanyahu, Gantz and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, a joint statement from Gantz’s National Unity party said on Wednesday.
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The statement said the unity government will not promote any unrelated policy or laws except those related to the ongoing fighting with Hamas in Gaza.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to Netanyahu’s existing government partners, a collection of far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.
The Israeli news outlet Haaretz reported that former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer will serve as observers.
For the last several months, Israel has been mired in domestic political turmoil over efforts by the Netanyahu government to push through proposed reforms to the country’s judiciary, which opponents have characterised as an effort to assert control over the judicial branch in a “judicial coup”.
Netanyahu and his allies have accused a massive protest movement that has taken to the streets for the last several months of endangering national cohesion in response to what they have defend as a series of justified reforms.
The announcement comes as Israel steps up attacks on Gaza, following an unprecedented assault into southern Israel by the armed Palestinian group Hamas that has killed at least 1,200 Israelis, many of them civilians, and shaken the confidence of the country.
Israeli officials have vowed a crushing response, cutting off access to water, fuel, and electricity for the 2.3 million Palestinians who live in the besieged Gaza Strip, where a blockade first put in place by Israel in 2007 has created deteriorating humanitarian conditions.
Human rights groups have said that depriving an occupied population of basic necessities is a war crime.
Israeli airstrikes targeting Gaza have killed at least 1,055 people and wounded 5,184, according to Palestinian officials.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies