Netanyahu asks war cabinet minister Gantz not to quit after ultimatum


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked war cabinet minister Benny Gantz not to resign after threats to quit over the lack of post-war strategy for the Gaza Strip.

Gantz said last month he would resign from the emergency body if Netanyahu did not approve a post-war plan for Gaza by June 8.

"I call on Benny Gantz -- do not leave the emergency government. Don't give up on unity," Netanyahu said on social media platform X.

Gantz canceled a news conference that was scheduled for Saturday, his office said, after the Israeli military said security forces had rescued four captives alive from Gaza earlier in the day.

Without directly addressing speculations he had been planning to resign, Gantz appeared on Israeli television on Saturday evening after the captives were freed.

"Alongside the justified joy over this achievement, it should not be forgotten that all the challenges Israel is facing... have remained as they were," Gantz said.

"Therefore, I say to the prime minister and the entire leadership -- today, too, we must look responsibly at what is right and how we can continue from here."

His centrist National Union Party submitted a bill last week to dissolve the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and hold early elections.

Gantz has been seen as a favourite to form a coalition in the event that Netanyahu's government is brought down and early elections are called.

The former army chief, one of Netanyahu's main rivals before he joined the war cabinet, had said this week that returning captives from Gaza was a "priority".

The army said Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, were rescued from central Gaza's Nuseirat refugee camp on Saturday.

All four had been nabbed by Hamas militants from the Nova music festival on October 7, the military said in a statement, adding the four had been taken to hospital and were in "good medical condition".

During their October 7 attack on southern Israel, militants took 251 captives, 116 of whom now remain in the Palestinian territory, including 41 the army says are dead.

The attack allegedly resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory bombardments and ground offensive on Gaza have killed 36,801 people, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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