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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz agreed to form an emergency unity government amid preparations for a potential ground war in the Gaza Strip, Axios reported.

The new unity government will see the formation of a small “war cabinet” that will run the war effort until the end of the conflict in Gaza.

Gantz – an opposition lawmaker and former Israeli Defense Force chief of staff – and another member of his party will join the new cabinet. Gantz and the prime minister also agreed to not hold any parliamentary discussions over the judicial overhaul bill, controversial legislation that sparked months-long protests against Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid was also offered a place in the unity government, but has not yet responded to the offer. Lapid previously demanded that Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners be excluded from the war cabinet.

Analysts said that Gantz’s participation underscores the severity of the political crisis in Israel following Hamas’ surprise attack on Saturday. They added that his role will significantly strengthen the cabinet members’ draw on security experience around its decision-making.

The formation of the unity government comes days after Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack from Gaza, firing thousands of rockets and breaching the hi-tech security fence around the enclave to allow hundreds of militants to cross into Israel, the Guardian noted.

While Israel has reclaimed control of areas around the Gaza border, Israeli troops are massing in the south in preparation for a potential ground war.

Israel reported that the fighting has killed more than 1,300 people and injured more than 2,700 others. On the Palestinian side, Gaza officials said about 1,500 Palestinians have died and more than 5,300 have been wounded.

Hamas is also holding at least 150 hostages, who were abducted following Saturday’s attack. The Palestinian militant group – considered a terrorist organization in the United States, the European Union and Israel – has threatened to kill a hostage every time the Israeli military bombs civilian targets in Gaza without warning, the Associated Press added.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s sole power station ran out of fuel amid an ongoing siege, adding to the looming catastrophe in the enclave. The United Nations human rights agency said there was a “mass displacement” in Gaza, with more than 423,000 people fleeing their homes, CNN reported.

Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have accused Hamas of a number of atrocities, including killing children, raping women and immolation.

Even so, that Hamas so quickly and easily breached Israeli security has left security analysts and Israeli defense officials puzzled.

Complicating the matter are the recent comments by US and Egyptian officials that Cairo warned Israel of a potential Hamas attack three days before Saturday’s events, according to the New York Post.

The chair of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, said the attack may have been planned as far back as a year ago. Observers noted that this information could have significant implications for Netanyahu, whose office dismissed Egypt’s reports as “totally fake news.”

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