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Israeli minister says 'time limited' for Hamas Gaza leader

media Islamist Hamas movement leader Yahya Sinwar (C) shouts slogans and flashes the victory gesture as he takes part in a tent city protest near the border with Israel east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza strip on March 30, 2018 AFP/File

A senior Israeli minister warned Wednesday that "time is limited" for Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip, days after a controversial truce ended a severe flare-up and triggered a coalition crisis.

"Yahya Sinwar's time is limited," said Housing Minister Yoav Gallant, a former general who once oversaw operations in the Gaza Strip.

"He won't finish his life in a retirement home."

Speaking at a conference organised by the Jerusalem Post newspaper, Gallant said Hamas's leaders must "recalculate their route" and decide whether to fight Israel or retain the relative quiet of recent days.

A ceasefire with Hamas last week ended the worst escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza since a 2014 war.

But the deal led hawkish Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman to resign in disagreement, sparking a coalition crisis that nearly forced early elections.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to avoid early polls when other key coalition members agreed to remain in the government.

Even if the coalition continues to hold, elections are due by November 2019 and politicians have been engaging in campaign-style rhetoric in a country where security issues are always at the forefront.

Speaking at the same conference, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said it was time for Israel to "move from defence to offence" in its battle with Hamas by "going back to targeted killings of the terrorist leaders of Hamas's military wing."

Erdan also said Israel should be "willing to capture and hold the Gaza Strip until we dismantle the terrorist infrastructure."

"Today we are closer than ever to doing this," he said.

Netanyahu has taken a more cautious approach to Gaza, saying he wants to avoid war if it is unnecessary.

He has allowed Qatar to provide the blockaded enclave with millions in aid and defended last week's ceasefire.

His backers say he and his security chiefs are in agreement on their approach to Gaza, while many analysts warn against starting another war without a clear strategy for how it will end.

Lieberman had in the past taken an especially aggressive tone toward Gaza, but backed off after becoming defence minister and said he was committed to "reasonable policy".

Prior to becoming minister, Lieberman had pledged to kill Hamas leader Ismail Haniya within 48 hours if he did not hand over two detained Israeli civilians and the bodies of soldiers killed in a 2014 war. Haniya was not killed.

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