Israel is amassing troops and tanks on the Gaza border in anticipation of a possible ground offensive. Israeli officials are not saying it is imminent but also stressing the option remains on the table.
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
As Hamas fired more rockets into Israel, the Israeli army called up 16,000 reservists and authorized thousands more call-ups. Israeli officials are talking about a possible ground invasion of Gaza. Sheera Frenkel reports.
(SOUNDBITE OF AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking foreign language)
SHEERA FRENKEL, BYLINE: This public service ad began airing on TV and radio stations across central Israel Friday. In it, Israelis are reminded what to do in the case of a rocket attack, especially in areas that haven't seen rocket fire in decades. Rockets fired by militants in Gaza struck near the city of Jerusalem today for the first time. Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial center, has been targeted twice over the past 24 hours. No one in either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv was hurt. But in Tel Aviv, the city known as the bubble by Israelis seeking sun and fun, beachgoers ran for shelter as the sound of sirens wailed over the city.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised a strong response to the rocket fire and suggested that Israel could be looking to broaden its operation in Gaza. Avital Leibovich, spokeswoman for the Israel Defense Forces, said the army was not ruling out a ground operation in Gaza.
AVITAL LEIBOVICH: We're in the process of recruiting some of the troops already in the area surrounding Gaza and that we are preparing for any option. The ground operation is still an option that is relevant. Although at this point, we haven't proceeded to any ground operation.
FRENKEL: Avital says Israel has two main objectives: to cripple the capabilities of what she calls the terror organizations in Gaza, and secondly, to ensure that no more rockets are fired on Israel. Across Israel's southern highways, tanks could be seen edging closer to the border with Gaza. Reserve soldiers milled around this coffee shop near the border as they waited for their orders to move. Gil Chernosky(ph), a reservist from Tel Aviv, said he had received a call at 1 a.m. to mobilize and move south.
GIL CHERNOSKY: I hope that in this time after we get inside, we have a little bit more years of quiet in the south of Israel.
FRENKEL: He says he last fought in Gaza four years ago during Operation Cast Lead. He says he has a simple philosophy when it comes to Gaza.
CHERNOSKY: If someone kick you, kick him back.
FRENKEL: He then continues to explain in Hebrew.
CHERNOSKY: (Speaking foreign language)
FRENKEL: He's saying the Palestinians need to understand that Israel isn't kidding around. He says, we have to restore deterrence or they'll never stop. Chernosky and other reservists here all say that they think a ground operation will be launched into Gaza this weekend. Speaking at a background briefing, one senior Israeli military official told NPR the army is already clearing incursion paths for ground troops. He says it's a question of when, not if, the army will have boots on the ground in Gaza. For NPR News, I'm Sheera Frenkel on the Israel-Gaza border. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.