Gaza truce holding but Netanyahu under fire at home
Netanyahu said Israel had dealt Hamas its toughest blow ever and rebuffed its demands for a truce
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced strong criticism over engaging in a costly conflict with Palestinian militants from which no clear victor had emerged, as an open-ended ceasefire was agreed on Wednesday.
On the streets of the battered, Hamas-run Palestinian enclave, people headed to shops and banks, trying to resume the normal pace of life after seven weeks of fighting. Thousands of others, who had fled the battles and sheltered with relatives or in schools, returned home, where some found only rubble.
In Israel, sirens warning of incoming rocket fire from the Gaza Strip fell silent.
Netanyahu told a news conference Israel had dealt Hamas its toughest blow ever and had rebuffed its demands for a truce. He said it was "too early to say" whether the calm would be prolonged, then threatened the Islamist group:
"If it resumes fire, we will not tolerate a sprinkle of shooting at any part of Israel, what we did in response now, we will respond even more vigorously."
But Israeli media commentators, echoing attacks by members of Netanyahu's governing coalition, voiced deep disappointment over his leadership during the most prolonged bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence in a decade.
Israeli opinion polls showed his popularity plummeting, such as a survey on Channel 10 television in which viewers gave him a grade of 55 percent, down from a 69 percent score at the beginning of the month.