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By Monday, the conflict had claimed three Israeli fatalities – from a missile strike on an apartment building in the town of Kiryat Malachi – and dozens of injuries. In Gaza, about 100 Palestinians were reported dead and more than 600 injured.
Even as cease-fire negotiations took place, some 75,000 Israeli reserve troops were activated, and military personnel and equipment arrived at the Gaza frontier in preparation for a possible ground invasion. On Saturday night, rows of military jeeps and armored cars sat parked at a gas station near the border while dozens of young soldiers in full uniform – some with helmets and others with vests – stood in groups or clustered with middle-aged officers around tables. For many, the immediate concern was about where to find some food.
“There’s nothing open,” one soldier complained as he watched a nearby restaurant shutter its doors.
Chaim, a soldier who did not give his last name due to IDF restrictions on speaking to the media, told JTA that Israel should act forcefully.
“Everyone wants to go in,” he said of a ground invasion. “We’ve waited too long. I’m calm. We have a father in heaven.
“We need to keep going,” he said, until the terrorists “don’t exist.”
Yossi, a soldier from Ashkelon, a frequent target of Gaza’s missiles, said he’s excited to serve.
“I take it,” he said of the rocket fire, “and I also defend.”
Polls show Israelis are strongly supportive of the operation in Gaza, and Netanyahu’s political opponents have lined up behind him, notwithstanding the elections in January.
“Israel is united in the war against terror,” Labor Party leader Shelly Yachimovich, a Netanyahu rival, wrote last week on her Facebook page. She called Jabari an “arch-terrorist,” writing, “His assassination is right and just.”
The Obama administration also supported the Israeli operation.
“There’s no country in the world that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” President Obama said at a news conference Sunday. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces, and potentially killing civilians.”