About a thousand Israelis from communities close to the border with Gaza protested in Tel Aviv on Thursday against what they see as a weak reaction on the part of the government against rocket attacks from the Strip. Demonstrators shouted "the south will not be silent" as they blocked the Azrieli Junction, in central Tel Aviv, close to the Kirya military center. Some demonstrators called for Netanyahu to resign and confronted police who tried to maintain order.
Many southern Israel residents were incensed by a statement by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi on Thursday that made a distinction between rocket attacks on the south and possible attacks on Tel Aviv.
Hanegbi was making the argument that Hamas' reaction to a covert special forces operation that set off the latest crisis with Gaza militants had been tailored so as not to cause an all-out war with Israel. Many Israelis criticized the statement as minimizing the attacks on southern Israel, and Netanyahu condemned the remark.
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Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza reached a cease-fire on Tuesday evening after three days of hostilities. Some 460 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel, with the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepting 100 of them. The military said it struck over 160 targets in Gaza. Some 350 Israelis flocked to the southern Israeli city of Sderot on Tuesday night to protest the cease-fire. Several demonstrators blocked the road at the entrance to the city and burned tires raised signs with slogans that read "We are not second-class citizens."
Taking the protest to Tel Aviv on Thursday, protesters told Haaretz that "the silence of communities in the south is over," and shouted slogans such as "if there is no quite in the south there won't be quite anywhere." Demonstrators from communities in the south were joined by others, from Tel Aviv and elsewhere, who joined them to express solidarity with their call for stronger action on the part of the government.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s announcement Wednesday that he was resigning and that his Yisrael Beiteinu party was leaving Israel's ruling coalition in the wake of the cease-fire had caused a political crisis for Netanyahu's coalition government, with top ministers calling for new elections.