Around 10,000 Israelis poured into downtown Tel Aviv late Thursday, calling on the government and the army to end Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza once and for all.
It was the first major demonstration in Israel since the country went to war against Hamas on July 8, launching a punishing air campaign followed by a ground offensive designed to stop rocket attacks and destroy attack tunnels.
Organizers said the rally united people across Israel's often bitter divides of left and right-wing, as well as religious and secular Jewish communities.
Alon Davidi, mayor of the southern town of Sderot, told the rally there must be a solution – be it political or military – to 14 years of rocket attacks.
"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 said.
"Finish the job!" he said. "This is a universal principle. We want to live in peace," he added.
Police said that around 10,000 people attended the rally in Rabin Square.
Members of the crowd waved Israeli flags and held up banners calling for peace with the Palestinians and others 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," said 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.
The residents of southern Israel, who have borne the brunt of Gaza's terrorism for 14 years, and who recently discovered that they are also targeted by over 30 Hamas terror tunnels.
The protesters include residents of the south and Israelis from all over the country who identify with their plight. The current confrontation in Gaza, which involved rocket attacks on most of Israel's territory, has brought home to most Israelis what southerners face routinely.
The protesters had been asked to wear red, symbolizing the Color Red slogan which is sounded as an alarm for incoming rocket fire. The protesters will demand that rocket on Gaza Belt communities receive the same priority as rockets on Tel Aviv.
Parents' representatives from the regions adjoining Gaza were to announce at the rally that if rockets continue to “drizzle” on their communities, they will not allow the school year to open on schedule, and tell their children to stay home instead.
"If there is a drizzle of even one rocket per day, we will not send the kids to school,” said Itay Levy, Head of the Parents' Council in the Shaar Hanegev region. He told the NRG website that while schools around Gaza are fortified against rockets. The roads are not. Hamas, he said, times its rockets for the times at which the children are making their way to and from school."