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Israeli minister quits post over Lebanon war report

A member of Israel's cabinet quit his post Tuesday as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced more calls to resign after a government report criticized his handling of last year's conflict in Lebanon.

A member of Israel's cabinet quit his post Tuesday as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced more calls to resign after a government report harshly criticized his handling of last year's conflict in Lebanon.

Eitan Cabel, a minister without portfolio from the Labour Party,Olmert's main coalition partner, announced his resignation during a news conference.

"Ehud Olmert must resign. He must bear responsibility," said Cabel. "I cannot sit in a government headed by Ehud Olmert."

It was not clear whether other members of Olmert's broad governing coalition would follow suit. Olmert's Kadima Party and Labour are the two biggest partners in the coalition.

A day earlier, an Israeli government commission criticized Olmert's decision to launch the war against Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon following a cross-border attack on Israeli soldiers.

Olmert showed a "severe failure in the lack of judgement, responsibility and caution," said the commission, chaired by retired judge Eliyahu Winograd.

While Olmert has vowed he will not resign, Israeli newspaper editorials and commentators called for him to step down, saying he had lost the confidence of the Israeli people.

The report "contains not even one lenient word to which the prime minister could cling in order to extend his term," wrote the daily Haaretz.

"The colossal failure that has already been identified in their functioning, even before the entire war has been analyzed, does not permit Ehud Olmert and [Defence Minister] Amir Peretz to remain in their posts for even one more day."

In an editorial titled "A Failed Leadership, " the Jerusalem Post said Olmert must resign.

"He cannot go on.…His tenure from here on will be a losing rearguard action, a prime ministership on borrowed time."

Olmert had been on the job for two months on July 12 when Lebanese-based Hezbollah militants launched a cross-border attack, killing three Israeli soldiers and abducting two others.

Israeli air strikes and Hezbollah rocket attacks lasted 34 days.

Between 1,035 and 1,191 Lebanese civilians and combatants were killed in the fighting, as were 119 Israeli soldiers and 39 civilians, according to officials from each side.

With files from the Associated Press

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