The operation launched by the IDF against Hamas on Saturday quickly drew both praise and condemnation in Israel. Right-wing party Israel Beiteinu expressed strong support for the operation. The party issued a statement in which it said that it backs "all actions by the government whose purpose is to protect Israel's citizens." The Likud also issued a statement expressing its satisfaction that the government had begun responding to Gaza rocket fire. However, according to Meretz Chairman MK Haim Oron, "At present and after the IDF operated in Gaza, there utmost importance to reach a renewal of the cease-fire agreement as soon as possible," "The safety of our residents in southern Israel and that of Gilad Schalit necessitate a very careful approach toward a possible ground operation, which essentially means sinking in the Gazan mud," he said. Elsewhere, hundreds of left-wing activists held an illegal protest against the operation in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Labor chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Saturday that effective immediately, he would be ceasing all activities relating to his campaign for the upcoming elections. "The situation of fighting in the south obligates the defense minister to concentrate entirely on his security activities, and until further notice, he is disconnecting himself from the campaign," a statement released by his office declared. Following in Barak's footsteps, Shas announced Saturday that it too was suspending its campaign due to the escalating violence. The party's spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yossef called on Israelis to pray for the safety of IDF soldiers and residents of the Gaza periphery. The Likud later announced it was also suspending its election campaign. Haviv Gur Rettig and AP contributed to this report.