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Thousands rally in support of Israel

Those in attendance included the Israeli ambassador Arthur Lenk and religious leaders.

Thousands of people attending the pro-Israel rally at Huddle Park in Linksfield. Picture: Valeska Abreu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Thousands have gathered at Huddle Park in Linksfield to show support for Israel in a rally organised by the South African Zionist Federation.

Jewish Voices for a Just Peace are also at the pro-Israel rally and are calling for an end to the conflict in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis.

The Gaza Health Ministry says about 1,740 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and 9,080 injured since the conflict began in the Gaza Strip on 8 July.

66 Israelis have died in the fighting including two soldiers.

Jews rally in support of Israel at Huddle Park in Linksfield, Johannesburg on 3 August, 2014. Picture: Valeska Abreu/EWN.

Spokesperson for the Jewish Voices for a Just Peace Rina King says they are opposed to the war on innocent civilians.

"We are calling for an enduring ceasefire, long term peace in Israel and Palestine and for Israel to have compassion for the genuine problems Palestinian people have.

"We are proudly Jewish, but Israel cannot build its happiness on other people's persecution and misery."

White doves symbolising peace released by the South African Zionist Federation. Picture: Valeska Abreu/EWN.

Earlier, thousands of people packed into Huddle Park in Linksfield to show solidarity with Israel.

According to organisers over 10,000 people attended including the ambassador of Israel to South Africa, Arthur Lenk as well as some religious leaders.

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein says the event shows the magnitude of support for Israel.

"I think a very important message that comes from today is that the South African dream is about unity and diversity and we have to as South Africans be able to disagree about what is happening in the Middle East in a way that we don't tear our own society apart."

Jews gather at Huddle Park in Linkfield, Johannesburg calling for peace on the Israel-Gaza border. Picture: Valeska Abreu/EWN.

PRESSURE

Earlier on Sunday, Israeli shelling killed at least 30 people in Gaza, a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to keep up pressure on Hamas even after the army completed its core mission of destroying a tunnel network used by Palestinian militants to attack Israel.

Netanyahu says Gaza's dominant Hamas faction bears ultimate responsibility for civilian casualties, accusing gunmen and rocket-launching squads of using residents in densely populated areas as "human shields".

In Rafah, Fatah faction leader and local resident Ashraf Goma said locals were unable to deal with the casualties.

"Bodies of the wounded are bleeding in the streets and other corpses are laid on the road with no one able to recover them.

"I saw a man on a donkey cart bringing seven bodies into the hospital. Bodies are being kept in ice-cream refrigerators, in flower and vegetable coolers," Goma told Reuters.

The Israeli army said that more than 55 rockets had been fired from Gaza at Israel on Sunday. Shrapnel from a rocket shot down by Israel's Iron Dome interceptor fell inside a playground in the Tel Aviv area but caused no injury, media reports said.

Israeli troops had discovered a cache of 150 mortar bombs in the southern Gaza Strip. They had clashed with Palestinian fighters who emerged from a tunnel and with others preparing to launch an anti-tank missile from a house in the area, a military statement said.

Israel began its offensive against Gaza on 8 July following a surge of cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other guerrillas. The fighting on Sunday pushed the Gaza death toll given by Palestinian officials to 1,775, most of them civilians. Israel has confirmed that 64 soldiers have died in combat, while Palestinian rockets have also killed three civilians in Israel.

TRUCE EFFORTS

In new truce moves, a delegation from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group arrived in the Egyptian capital, but a quick breakthrough seemed unlikely in the absence of Israeli representatives.

After accusing Hamas of breaching Friday's short-lived ceasefire, Israel said it would not send envoys as scheduled.

Israel says it wants Gaza demilitarised under any long-term arrangement.

Hamas, sworn to Israel's destruction, demands Israel withdraw its troops and a lifting of Israeli and Egyptian blockades that have choked Gaza's economy.

A Palestinian official said Palestinian representatives in Cairo had formulated a joint paper listing those conditions as well as demands for the release of Hamas prisoners held by Israel and the start of a Gaza reconstruction process.

In Gaza, Israel intensified attacks in the area of Rafah along the border with Egypt, where Goldin had been feared captured on Friday. Hamas described Israeli shelling in the town as unjustified retribution for what the group said was a false accusation that the officer had been abducted.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said Goldin was a relative of his. "He and other soldiers who fell embarked on the campaign to restore quiet and security to Israel," he said.

The Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said three dozen tunnels had been unearthed and destroyed and "we are finishing up de-commissioning these tunnels".

"We hope that job will be completed in a matter of hours, not days," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press".

*Editors Note: It was initially reported that the white doves symbolising peace were released by the Jewish Voices for a Just Peace. This has been corrected.

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