Residents of southern Israel on Wednesday burned tires and blocked the entrances to cities battered by Gaza rocket fire to protest the government’s response to violence emanating from the Palestinian enclave.
About 80 Israelis protested at the entrance to Ashkelon, where they shouted slogans against the government over a ceasefire ending the latest bout of rocket fire from Gaza on the south.
The demonstrators blocked traffic in both directions on Route 4, police said, and video showed protesters waving Israeli flags as they marched down the highway.
Another 20 people took part in a protest outside Sderot, which led to the closing of Route 34 between the Sha’ar Hanegev and Nir Am junctions and parts of Route 232, a main artery in the region.
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Channel 10 reported that the residents intend to take their protest tomorrow to Tel Aviv, where they will demonstrate near the Defense Ministry headquarters.
Hundreds took part in a similar demonstration on Tuesday after a ceasefire between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers took effect following the largest barrage of rockets on southern Israeli communities since the 2014 Gaza war.
Protesters blocked roads and burned tires, with some chanting, “Bibi go home,” using a nickname for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Confrontations were reported between protesters and policemen.
The ceasefire, which Israel has been loathe to officially recognize, has been condemned by many in the country and was cited by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman in his resignation announcement earlier Wednesday.
“It’s better that we suffer in shelters and they put an end to it once and for all,” Reut Bassis of Sderot told Hadashot TV news on Tuesday. “A month from today the same thing will happen…it doesn’t make sense that our lives are like this.”
Communities in the south have been at the front-lines of clashes along the Gaza border as part of ongoing Hamas-led protests that began in March, which have seen thousands of acres of forest and farmland burned by incendiary devices carried by balloons and kites launched from the coastal enclave.
The months-long violence has included a number of exchanges of fire between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups that have included rocket barrages from the Strip and retaliatory Israeli strikes, followed by ceasefires unilaterally declared by Hamas and other Palestinian factions.
Egyptian and United Nations mediators have played a central role in efforts to bring calm to the border and broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Last week, Israel allowed Qatar to deliver $15 million to Gaza to allow cash-strapped Hamas to pay the salaries of thousands of government workers. At the same time, Hamas has lowered the intensity of violent border protests in recent weeks.
At a press conference announcing his resignation, Liberman called the ceasefire a “capitulation to terror” and said Israel should have responded more forcefully to the firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza.
The ceasefire was hailed by Hamas as a victory ostensibly imposed on Israel on Hamas’s terms. Rocket fire at Israel came to a halt on Tuesday afternoon, after two days of incessant attacks.
According to the military, over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel over the course of 25 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens more, and causing significant property damage.
In response to the rocket and mortar attacks, the Israeli military said it targeted approximately 160 sites in the Gaza Strip connected to the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups, including four facilities that the army designated as “key strategic assets.”