About 10,000 Israeli protesters demand end to Gaza rocket attacks
Reuters in Tel Aviv
About 10,000 Israelis protested in a Tel Aviv square against what they see as the failure of a five-week Gaza war to decisively halt rocket and mortar fire at southern towns bordering the Palestinian coastal territory.
Many demonstrators who travelled in by bus on Thursday from parts of Israel hardest hit by rocket attacks in the recent fighting were joined by supporters in the Israeli business centre, who have faced daily rocket fire in the fighting since July 8.
Two successive truces since Monday, due to last until next Tuesday, have largely stilled the guns following the death of 1,945 mostly civilian Palestinians, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians.
However, demonstrators were wary of seeing further hostilities erupt once the ceasefire ends and many felt the Israeli military should destroy the rocket arsenals of Hamas militants who dominate Gaza.
Some complained of feeling betrayed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, which has pledged that the war would restore calm to southern Israel, in addition to destroying underground tunnels seen as launching pads for future attacks.
No one criticised Netanyahu personally and he was thanked, along with the military, for taking on Hamas in the latest hostilities. But the demonstration was still the largest public display of criticism of Israel's government since the hostilities began.
"We're tired of promises," said Alon Davidi, mayor of Sderot, one of the rocket-battered Gaza border towns, as he stood on a podium in Tel Aviv's main city square.
"We fear the agreements that may result in compromise at our expense; our lives are not cheap, we're not ready to accept a continued hail of deadly fire from Gaza.
"This situation must finally be brought to resolution. We cannot just let some terrorist group make us dance to their music. In a proper country the army protects its citizens and that's just what Israel must let them do."
Haim Dahan, 39, a father of four from Sderot, said: "We feel as though there may be a ceasefire now, but wait another year and the situation will be worse than it was when the war began," he said. We must crush them. Hamas must not be allowed to decide whether my family may sleep peacefully at night."
Hamas negotiators met with the Islamic militant group's leadership in Qatar yesterday to discuss a proposal for a long-term truce with Israel, with an official saying the group was inclined to accept an Egyptian-mediated offer.