Some 10-15,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Thursday night in a show of support for the rocket-ravaged southern communities and to call for an end to the constant interruptions to their daily lives.
The event was organized by the mayors and municipal leaders of towns and communities living near the Gaza border, together with the Tel Aviv municipality.
Under the title “Don’t stay quiet on a red,” a reference to a similarly worded road safety campaign slogan and the Color Red missile warning system, the mayors expressed their frustration with living under persistent mortar and rocket attacks.
Before the gathering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the municipal leaders to give his support and made it clear that the government is working to neutralize the threat from Gaza.
“We will not end Operation Protective Edge before we have achieved our goals: the restoration of quiet and security for a prolonged period for the citizens of Israel, together with a significant strike against the terror infrastructures,” he said.
Alon Davidi, the mayor of Sderot, a town that has suffered thousands of rocket attacks for more than a decade and where warning systems give residents just 15 seconds to run for cover, addressed the crowd.
“We, the residents of the Gaza border communities, will not accept the situation in which they shoot rockets at us and dig tunnels under our feet,” he said referring to tunnels, dug by Hamas under the border with Israel, that have been used by terrorists to infiltrate the country and carry out deadly ambushes. “We are fed up with the assurances and declarations. Our blood is not worthless.”
“The residents of Israel understand, today more than ever, just how unbearable the situation is,” he said. “I won’t offer any suggestions to the government, but, as the mayor of Sderot, I ask to put an end to this for once and for all — militarily and diplomatically, or in any other way. We can’t continue to dance to the terrorists’ tune.”
“I have full confidence in the government and in the army, but at the same time I ask as mayor of Sderot that they put an end to this situation once and for all,” Davidi says.
“Finish the job!” he added. “This is a universal principle. We want to live in peace,” he added.
Members of the crowd waved Israeli flags. Some held up banners calling for peace with the Palestinians, others were scrawled with the words: “Occupy Gaza now!”
“We all came here to send the message that rocket fire on the south is not only a problem for the south but a problem for the rest of the country,” says Haim Yelin, head of the Eshkol regional council.
He thanked the military for launching the offensive. “I hope they will transform the military victory into a political victory that will bring quiet to the whole country,” he said.
Earlier in the day Israel and Hamas agreed, through Egyptian mediators, to extend a truce for another five days. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been in Cairo to try and hammer out a long-term ceasefire. The latest in a series of temporary truces came after more than a month of fighting. Israel launched Operation Protective Edge to stem the rocket fire from Gaza and then moved to destroy the network of tunnels under the border.
AFP contributed to this report.