Israel hit by general strike
Jerusalem - Half a million Israeli public and private sector workers began a general strike on Wednesday after talks over the rights of contract workers broke down, public radio reported.
The strike, called by Israel's biggest trade union umbrella group, Histadrut, got underway on Wednesday morning.
It will affect hospitals and office workers, banks, the national electricity company, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, as well as ports and the rail service.
Ben Gurion international airport, near Tel Aviv was also expected to grind largely to a halt, though 25 aircraft were allowed to take off, with 10 000 travellers able to leave.
Some schools were also hit by the strike, though bus services in most cities was not expected to be affected.
The strike was called after talks between Histadrut and Israel's finance ministry over the rights of contract workers failed to reach a breakthrough.
Fired without notice
Histadrut is calling for all contract workers to receive the same rights as regular staffers.
The union association claims that the number of contract workers employed particularly by the government has mushroomed in recent years.
These employees can be fired without notice and are provided with little holiday or benefits, Histadrut says.
The Israeli government says it is willing to make some concessions on the status of contract workers but that it would be economically disastrous to offer them the same rights as full employees.
Histadrut secretary general Ofer Eini and Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz were due to continue talks on Wednesday afternoon.