Israel formed a unity government and a war cabinet on Wednesday to oversee the deadly conflict triggered by Hamas’ weekend surprise attack as it continued to launch airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip.
The new war cabinet brings former defence minister and leader of the centrist-right National Unity party Benny Gantz to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious coalition government. Members of the wartime cabinet also include Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
The formation of the war cabinet comes amid increasing public criticism in Israel against Netanyahu and his government, who were blamed for failing to adequately prepare and foresee Saturday’s attack, as well as amid rising speculation that Israel would launch a ground offensive in Gaza soon.
Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) waged a surprise attack on Israel on Saturday, which included the firing of thousands of rockets and the infiltration ground attacks on the Israeli towns bordering Gaza.
In response, Israel launched retaliatory airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. The ongoing conflict, as it entered the fifth day, has taken a heavy toll on both sides, with the death toll in Israel and Gaza rising to at least 1,200 and 1,100, respectively.
In addition to the retaliatory strikes, Israel has also ordered “a full siege” of Gaza, cutting the supply of electricity, food and water to the coastal enclave.
Fighting continued on Wednesday, with Israeli airstrikes continuing to demolish neighbourhoods in the blockaded enclave, while militants in Gaza continued to fire rockets towards southern and northern Israel. The Israeli army also reported several infiltrations of gunmen in which at least five militants were killed.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said on Wednesday that four of its paramedics were killed during Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) reported the loss of eleven employees in the Gaza Strip since the weekend.
According to United Nations figures, some 250,000 people were displaced or lost their homes in Gaza. The Palestinian Energy Ministry said the only power plant in Gaza ran out of fuel. The Health Ministry in Gaza said in a statement Wednesday all hospital beds in the Palestinian enclave had been occupied, and medicines were about to run out as the conflict continued.
To resolve the conflict, an Arab League (AL) extraordinary meeting at the level of foreign ministers was held in Cairo on Wednesday. Participants of the meeting called for an immediate halt to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict and the revival of the stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
In the final communique of the meeting, the top Arab diplomats urged all parties to exercise self-restraint, warning of “the catastrophic humanitarian and security repercussions” of further escalation.
They also emphasized the necessity of lifting the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza and immediately providing humanitarian aid, food, and fuel to the people there.
Egypt said Wednesday it is in discussions with the United States and other countries to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza through a temporary ceasefire. The aid would be sent through the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt