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Netanyahu disbands his inner war Cabinet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the six-member war Cabinet, an Israeli official said on Monday, in a widely expected move that came after the departure from government of the centrist former general Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu is now expected to hold consultations about the Gaza war with a small group of ministers, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer who had been in the war cabinet.

The prime minister had faced demands from the nationalist-religious partners in his coalition, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, to be included in the war cabinet, a move which would have intensified strains with international partners including the United States.

The forum was formed after Gantz joined Netanyahu in a national unity government at the start of the war in October and also included Gantz’s partner Gadi Eisenkot and Aryeh Deri, head of the religious party Shas, as observers.

Gantz and Eisenkot both left the government last week, over what they said was Netanyahu’s failure to form a strategy for the Gaza war.

Meanwhile, an Israeli official told NBC News that Amos Hochstein, the White House official tasked with trying to ease tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border, will hold meetings with the Israeli government on Monday.

Intensified cross-border fire from the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group could trigger serious escalation, the Israeli military warned Sunday.

“Hezbollah’s increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation, one that could have devastating consequences for Lebanon and the entire region,” Israeli military spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a video statement in English.

Hezbollah last week launched the largest volleys of rockets and drones yet in the eight months it has been exchanging fire with the Israeli military, in parallel with the Israel-Hamas war.

After the relatively heavy exchanges over the past week, Sunday saw a marked drop in Hezbollah fire, while the Israeli military said that it had carried out several air strikes against the group in southern Lebanon.

The U.S. and France are working on a negotiated settlement to the hostilities along Lebanon’s southern border. Hezbollah says it will not halt fire unless Israel stops its military offensive on Gaza.

“Israel will take the necessary measures to protect its civilians — until security along our border with Lebanon is restored,” Hagari said.

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