Saturday evening, the left-wing Peace Now movement called upon the government to agree to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's call for ceasefire. According to the group's statement: "One fatal accident is enough to turn the tables, complicate matters for Israel, and endanger the lives of IDF soldiers. Thus, we must agree to a ceasefire before it's too late."
Rally in Nazareth (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Among the Arab-Israeli population there is also a widespread appeal to the government to agree to the ceasefire. This is despite the fact that the Israeli government already stated publicly that any ceasefire agreement is contingent upon Cpl. Gilad Shalit first being released.
Saturday afternoon, scores of protesters in Nazareth and Rahat protested against military operations in Gaza. Chairman of the United Arab List-Ta'al faction, Knesset Member Talab el-Sana, who attended the protest in Rahat, said that Shalit's release should be achieved through diplomatic channels, and not by military action.
Earlier, MK Ahmed Tibi (also of the UNited Arab List-Ta'al faction), in a radio interview with Radio Montecarlo said that "the Israeli government will sooner or later release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the soldier. So why not avoid all the bloodshed?" Tibi also called upon the government to agree to Haniyeh's ceasefire offer.
State of affairs in Gaza
At least three Palestinians were killed Saturday as a result of IDF activity in Gaza and almost forty have been killed in recent days. As a result of the extreme hardship for the Gazan population, Haniyeh approached the Israeli government with a ceasefire request. According to a statement issued from his office in Gaza, "in order to end the current crisis, a mutual cessation of military action is required on both sides."
Haniyeh emphasized that, regarding the issue of the kidnapped soldier, there is no escaping the need for negotiation. "The Palestinian government is interested in finding a solution in a quiet and diplomatic manner, without pressure or military escalation," Haniyeh said.
"The issue of Palestinian prisoners is a painful one in Palestinian homes, and it is necessary for the international community to open their eyes to the tragedy of this issue." He again appealed for the release of Hamas ministers and parliament members who were arrested in recent days and for "the elimination of the siege being waged on the Palestinian people, by allowing the reopening of border crossings for passengers and wares.