Some one thousand Israeli activists from Peace Now and the left-wing Meretz party protested Saturday against the offensive in Gaza, opposite the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv.
"We have assembled to call on Israel to think twice before expanding the [Gaza] operation, we are here because we care about the IDF soldiers," said Peace Now chief Yariv Oppenheimer.
Israel indicated Saturday that it would begin a third phase of its two-week operation aimed at halting rocket fire on its southern communities, dropping leaflets in Gaza warning civilians that it plans to step up its military campaign.
"This is a demonstration that includes many true Zionists who fear for peace in the country, but our Zionism does not make us crave blood and war," Oppenheimer said.
Meretz chairman Haim Oron also attended the demonstration, and called on the Israeli government to "Stop the war and reach an agreement as soon as possible." This is "the only way to stem the bloodshed," he said.
Oron and Meretz initially supported the Israel Defensive Forces operation when it first began. But, he explained Saturday, "We said that the action's objective was to reach a cease-fire as early and as quickly as possible in order to achieve calm." He said that the time had come for even those who back the operation to call for a truce.
The protesters were joined by activists from the Hadash movement and members of the radical left in Israel. There was a minor skirmish at the sidelines of the protest when Oppenheimer, who is also a member of the Labor Party, tried to pull down a banner reading: "Not pleasant, a murderer," a reference to the election campaign headed by Labor Party leader Ehud Barak.
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