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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 20:12 GMT 21:12 UK
Israelis call on Olmert to resign
Rabin Square was filled with thousands of protesters

Tens of thousands of Israelis have rallied in Tel Aviv, calling for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to quit over his handling of last year's Lebanon war.

Demonstrators filled Rabin Square three days after an official interim report sharply criticised Mr Olmert's role in launching and running the war.

Followers of political parties from across Israel's often bitter political divides were present at the rally.

Mr Olmert says he will stay in office and implement the report's proposals.

But on stage in Tel Aviv a large banner carried a message directly aimed at the country's leaders: "You failed, go home."

They were elected to bring hope and all they brought is disappointment
Shevah Salner
Protester

Organisers, who said 100,000 protesters were at the event, banned politicians from taking to the stage, but said politicians from all parties were welcome in the crowd.

"There are no politicians here, but this is a political event," said Uzi Dayan, a retired general and one of the organisers.

Olmert 'weak'

Many people in the crowd made clear the widespread anger at the government's handling of the 34-day conflict with Hezbollah militants.

"All this government needs to go - including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert," one protester, Shevah Salner, told the BBC in the square.

Views from Tel Aviv protesters

"They were elected to bring hope and all they brought is disappointment."

The prime minister's aides say he will not be moved by opinion polls or rallies, the BBC's Tim Franks reports from Tel Aviv.

There are some who say Mr Olmert can draw strength from the fact he remains in office today, our correspondent says.

But, he adds, the Israeli prime minister's position does remain weak.

Edan Mehallel, 16, from the northern city of Haifa, told the Associated Press he lived through Hezbollah rocket attacks and had come to make a difference.

"The more people there are, the more influence the demonstration will have," he said.

Knesset support

Earlier, Israel's parliament, the Knesset, held an extraordinary session to debate the report's findings.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu called for Mr Olmert to resign, but Kadima MPs backed the prime minister and a vote of no-confidence was not held.

The report, issued after a six-month investigation led by retired judge Eliahu Winograd, accused Mr Olmert of "serious failure in exercising judgement, responsibility and prudence".

On Wednesday Mr Olmert's own Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, called for the prime minister to resign, offering to stand as his replacement.

Defence Minister Amir Peretz and the former military Chief of Staff Dan Halutz were also heavily criticised by the report.

The inquiry, commissioned by Mr Olmert, did not explicitly call for resignations.




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The protest against Ehud Olmert in Tel Aviv



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