Minister in the Israeli war cabinet, Benny Gantz announced his resignation on Sunday amid disagreements with the prime minister, despite the release of four hostages held in the Gaza Strip during a raid which, according to Hamas, killed hundreds of Palestinians.

Benny Gantz’s resignation is the latest sign of growing division in Israel over how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been waging war against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas for nine months now.

The announcement by Mr. Netanyahu’s rival came after Israeli special forces engaged Palestinian fighters with heavy weapons on Saturday in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. They managed to free four hostages held in two buildings and then evacuated them aboard helicopters.

Benny Gantz announced his resignation after issuing an ultimatum to Mr Netanyahu on post-war Gaza, demanding the adoption of an “action plan” and setting a June 8 deadline.

The Prime Minister reacted on Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right minister responsible for National Security, immediately “demanded” on Telegram to “be included” in the war cabinet.

Gantz’s resignation is not expected to immediately cause major political upheaval. Mr. Netanyahu’s government coalition still has a majority in Parliament with the support of far-right groups.

During the operation to free the hostages, the Israeli army said its soldiers and the hostages came under heavy fire from guns and grenades, which caused the death of a police officer.

The Hamas Ministry of Health claimed that 274 people had been killed and 698 injured, denouncing a “massacre” in a densely populated area of ​​the Palestinian territory. This assessment could not be independently verified.

“My child was crying, scared by the sound of the plane shooting at us,” said a Gaza woman, Hadeel Radwan, 32, recounting how she fled the fighting with her seven-month-old daughter in her arms: “We all thought we weren’t going to survive.”

The freed hostages – Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41 – were kidnapped from the site of the Nova electronic music festival during the unprecedented attack of Hamas on October 7 in Israel, which sparked the war in Gaza against the Palestinian Islamist movement.  

Many Israelis cried with joy upon hearing of their release. The army released images of the ex-hostages kissing their family members, and the government press service published images of the prime minister visiting them in hospital.

A senior military commander, Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld, resigned Sunday over what he called his failure to prevent the October 7 attack.

On Sunday, Israeli army operations continued in Gaza. Four members of the same family were killed and several others injured by an airstrike that hit their home in Gaza City (north), according to doctors at Al-Ahli hospital.

In the center of the Palestinian territory, witnesses reported helicopter fire east of the Al-Bureij camp and artillery fire in Deir al-Balah. Heavy weapons fire was also reported in Rafah (south).

In the ninth month of the war between Israel and Hamas, the release of the four hostages on Saturday reinforces Mr Netanyahu’s military strategy, under strong pressure abroad and at home.

The army left behind a spectacle of desolation, according to images from AFPTV: charred cars, gutted or ruined buildings, fires and smoking rubble. Men make their way through the debris to try to put out flames or help the injured, others are gathered around bodies wrapped in blankets.

In Israel, it was time for relief, with the Hostage Families Forum hailing a “miraculous triumph”.

“At home,” headlined two major Israeli dailies on their front pages on Sunday, Yediot Aharonot and Israel Hayom. Financial newspaper Calcalist hailed a “heroic operation” that gave the Israelis “a few hours of grace.”

The attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas commandos infiltrated from Palestinian territory resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, the majority civilians, according to an AFP count based on official data.

During this attack, 251 people were taken as hostages. After a short truce in November which allowed the release of around a hundred of them, 116 hostages are still being held in the Gaza Strip, of whom 41 are dead, according to the Israeli army.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007 and which it considers a terrorist organization along with the United States and the European Union.

At least 37,084 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed there since October 7, according to data from the Health Ministry of the Hamas-led Gaza government.

The American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is expected in the coming days in Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan, to “promote a ceasefire proposal” recently presented by President Joe Biden, according to Washington.