When I took my dog for a walk early this morning on Dizengoff Street in central Tel Aviv, all was business as usual. Merchants were opening up their shops, parents walking their children to school, trash was collected.

One-hour’s drive later and I found myself on the Gaza-Israel border in the south of the country, where life was the extreme opposite. The sky was covered in thick black smoke. F16’s were flying overhead. Dozens of tanks began massing on the border. A white balloon floated overhead. It’s a missile defense system called an Aerostat.

I could hear explosions and gunfire sporadically. I counted about 8-10 large booms an hour. More and more troops began arriving at the border, shooting their tanks’ cannons to make sure the equipment was working properly. Other soldiers lined up on their stomachs looking out towards Gaza. Some put on tefilin and said prayers. Others spoke to the crowd of international media that had gathered. Many chose to meditate alone and keep to themselves.

This is day two of Operation Oferet Yetzuka (‘Cast Lead’). The goal of the operation according to Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “To bring a fundamental improvement in the security situation in the south. To protect 250,000 people in the south, 100,000 children that have been under constant rocket fire for months.”

Day two began with another series of airstrikes. The number of fatalities now stands at 280 with 600 injured. One air strike targeted the headquarters of Al-Din Al-Qassam Battalion, Hamas’ military wing. Another targeted a Hamas-run jail; hundreds of prisoners ran for freedom. Other strikes hit a warehouse and a tanker holding smuggled fuel. Another hit a mosque and police stations throughout Gaza.

Israeli Intelligence reports issued today note that accuracy has not been an issue for the Air Force: almost all strikes were right on target. In all, the IDF has dropped 100 tons of explosives on Gaza since the start of the operation.

At around 4pm, the IDF had bombed over 40 weapons smuggling tunnels on the The Philadelphi Route (corridor / buffer zone — an IDF code name for the strip of land along the border between Egypt and Israel). These tunnels have been used by Hamas since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.

At 5pm, more armored personnel tanks from around the country have arrived at the Gaza border in preparation for a possible ground operation. About a kilometer out, artillery batteries, soldiers from different infantry brigades as well as Special Forces began stationing themselves about one kilometer from the Gaza border. Some 6700-reserve soldiers have been called up for possible reinforcement.

Today Hamas fired fewer than 20 rockets, significantly fewer than yesterday. Why? Is Hamas trying to fool Israel into thinking they have no more rockets. Are they saving their firepower?

Another major question: Will the IDF be able to finish this operation from the air? Many Kassam rocket launchers are located next to schools or in the bottom stories of warehouses. The air force has decided not to destroy these infrastructures yet, due to the risk of the massive potential number of civilian causalities. To get to these structures without incurring a large civilian loss, the IDF needs troops on the ground.

Today, rockets continued to land in Israel. The Ashdod hits were the furthest for Hamas ever, about 40 km from the Gaza Strip. Rockets also landed for the second day in Ashkelon and other areas in the Western Negev. The IDF advised residents of Beer Sheva, G’dera and Yavneh to locate a fortified room. Sderot residents are also gearing up for more barrages. Schools within a 20 km radius of Gaza will remain closed indefinitely. Deaf residents in the area have received beepers in case of an attack. Israel’s northern residents are also preparing for possible attacks from Lebanon and are examining the preparedness of their fortified rooms.

What really worries me… that Israeli Arabs and Palestinians will go wild and that a front will open up in Lebanon and that we’ll find ourselves in an all-out war.

Today the Kerem Shalom border crossing was open for humanitarian support. Foreign journalists have petitioned the high court to let them into Gaza to cover the other side; they may be allowed in tomorrow, but I was not permitted into Gaza because I am an Israeli citizen. Covering the conflict on the other side proves extremely difficult. The Hamas regime there is in the Taliban style. There is no way to verify what Hamas is saying. The western world should treat with caution statistics coming out of the Gaza Strip.

There is a wall-to-wall coalition with the Iranians that says Hamas is solely responsible for this crisis. Hamas ripped up Egyptian-brokered deal for a truce between Gaza and Israel brokered recently. One day last week, Hamas fired more than 40 rockets and mortar shells into Israel.

Today the Prime Minister’s spokesman, Mark Regev, said, “If we have quiet from Gaza we will answer with quiet.”

I spoke to Haled, an acquaintance of mine who lives in Gaza City today. It took me hours to get through to him. He told me that he saw someone’s head blown off last night and that he is traumatized. Haled went out two days ago to get groceries and was caught in the crossfire. He has been unable to make his way home and cannot reach his family. He told me there is no food, no water and that the city is in complete darkness. But he told me what most Gazans would never say to a camera that wiping out Hamas is not a bad thing, that life could be different – peaceful – bearable in the Gaza Strip, if not under Hamas’ tyranny.

Is the Arab world behind Hamas or not? It seems like they are behind them in the media, but that really, they are blaming Hamas. Fatah said Hamas is to blame for their troubles.

How long will this battle rage on? How long will the suffering go on for residents on both sides of the border? Are we talking about days, weeks or months? This morning, in a meeting of the Israeli cabinet, there was a positive assessment of what’s going on: the Israeli Air Force has been knocking out Hamas infastructure in Gaza as planned. But the Hamas military machine is still very strong and this could get worse before it gets better. The Prime Minister called on Israeli citizens in the South to be strong and resilient. All of us must be prepared for the long haul.

Cross posted to ROI120

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  • Great on sight reporting Leah. I am thankful for your tone. It reflects the fact that most Israelis, while supporting this campaign, would prefer a different outcome and that they don’t enjoy the carnage.

  • one thing i always hear from israel is why do hamas or some other group attack israel?

    they also say why cant hamas recognize israels right to exist and stop their attacks?

    here are the answers

    when the west bank was under more heavy military occupation and gaza was also under israeli control the israeli military carried out daily hurtful activities on the palestinians

    now mind you i am not talking about palestinian militants or suspected terrorists, i am talking about non militant palestinians

    let me give you some examples, a palestinian reporter named fadel shana was killed by an israeli tank shell in his jeep, even when the tank commander knew that he was not a militant and the area he was in was designated as a civilian area by the IDF itself, now tell me what was the reason for killing him even if the military admitted they knew he was only a reporter??????

    some more examples, israel routinely arrests random palestinians under “””administrative detention laws””””
    where boys and even girls as young as 15 are jailed to force their parents acting as collaborators, and this isnt even a secret, they are not even charged with terrorism, after one to two years they are released without any reason being given for their arrest.

    all the stuff i mentioned above would be acceptable if it were all mistakes, but they are not.

    some more examples, i was in a checkpoint line, and during that time a soldier started to shove all the people,then he forced everyone to make a straight line and some guy was a bit slow so the soldier took his rifle butt and hit him on the face the face hard, the guy then dropped to the floor like a bag of stones, his kids watched in shock.

    let me give you my experience, i was once walking down the road when an idf jeep stopped in front of me, then a couple of soldiers got out along with a young female soldier.

    i asked them in english whats wrong??

    one of them slapped them me hard on the face and the other pushed me to the ground, i then tried to get up but then they kept me on the ground with their boots on my chest, then i saw the female idf soldier take out a camera and take my picture.

    let me tell you an experience my friend had with israeli settlers, he was walking down the road when settlers in a car cornered him, stripped him of his clothes and beat him.(it happened to other palestinians too)he was then forced to walk home naked.

    now you will ask me do all these things justify attacks against israel???

    considering the fact that the stuff i mentioned were all “”mild”” incidents, and if you add together all the incidents during the last 20 years along with the fact that thousands of palestinians were made homeless, just so that the idf can have a green line,

    even if that is not a good enough excuse, how about the fact that a palestinian pregnant woman was not even allowed to go into a palestinian hospital because a checkpoint refused to let her pass even when she had papers??????

    not letting her into an israeli hospital is fine, but why not a palestinian hospital???

    she died from complications on the spot.

    you are worse than the apartheid and like the apartheid regime you have american support(america supported the white south african govt. because they were anti communist, they even refused to condemn apartheid until 1989)

    you are worse because at least white south africans were honest and werent using the bible to justify claim to the land, but every israeli soldier i met either was a religious jew who would call me a “black son of ishmael”, and my personal fav. sand nigger(to be honest was an american jew though)

    and no i dont hold hatred in my heart against jews because being born a palestinian was my luck and i escaped palestine, i believe one day all palestinians will be kicked out from israel,gaza,west bank etc because christians believe that jesus will only return when israel is 100% jewish, maybe it will be a blessing in disguise because everytime you thought you guys were victorious, god taught you a lesson

  • This article rocks.
    Kol Hakavod to Jewlicious for having journalists on the front line.
    You’re indeed a courageous blog.

  • Simple Guy, there is no IDF in Gaza and not even a single Jew was left there because apparently Palestinians do not wish to have any Jews living among them. Yet, Hamas was launching daily rocket attacks against civilian targets inside Israel. No Jews in Gaza, no Zionists or Israelis. None. Yet Hamas was launching daily rockets at civilians inside Israel. Do you see the problem?

    There are plenty of Israelis who are respectful of Palestinians, who seek to live in peace side by side and who are critical of the Israeli government. That’s just to point out that the majority of Israelis are not what you describe above and this holds true for the majority of soldiers. And just as you can provide selective events to criticize Israel, I can provide plenty of selective events where Palestinians have behaved unconscionably. For example, launching daily rocket attacks at civilian targets. I mean, I abhor your story about the settlers stripping your friend (and I’ll even give you the benefit of the doubt that it’s true although I am skeptical) but it doesn’t compare to launching rockets at civilian neighborhoods. You see? It doesn’t compare to terror attacks and it doesn’t compare to the disgusting hatred of Jews and Israelis that sits as the ideological foundation of Hamas, Fatah and their followers’ activities.

    Hamas could have made Gaza bloom but they preferred to use all their resources to smuggle arms, build an army and attack Israeli civilians daily.

    They are being rewarded now for their actions and it is their actions that make Israel’s attacks legitimate and entirely ethical. Nobody in Israel wanted to go back to Gaza but the Palestinians apparently missed the Israelis desperately.

  • Did anyone listen to ‘All Things Considered’ on NPR today? They had a Hamas official speak. Here is what he said, “This has nothing to do with rockets because there are no rockets fired.” He later goes on to say that it is collaborators asked by Israel to fire rockets from Gaza.

    Here is the link and judge for yourself.

  • Michael, thanks, that was hilarious.

    It was particularly funny when he complained about Israeli violations of international law.

  • simple guy:

    “at least white south africans were honest and werent using the bible to justify claim to the land, ”

    not accurate; you need to look at the role of the Dutch Reform church in apartheid:

    For the Afrikaners, descended from Dutch immigrants, the idea that different cultures should live apart was nothing less than God’s will.

    “The way Afrikaners justified apartheid was to say it was God-ordained,” said Stanley Uys. “Most Afrikaaners are Calvinists and there is a strong streak of determinism in their makeup.

    “Their churches found theological justification for apartheid. [..]]

  • the stripping story is true, and it happened to another guy too, i heard it was mentioned in some israeli newspaper,some settlers son was arrested but probably released.

    as for fatah, arent they your new poodles now?

    everything boils down to trust, during the pre intifadah days palestinian rights were even worse, any idf officer could at anytime shoot and abuse any palestinians at will,
    only after hand held cameras and security cameras became available did
    israelis scale down their abuse.

    as for no israelis being in gaza, before hamas launched the rockets, didnt you impose a blockade on gaza just like america imposed on iraq from 1991 to 2003(the sanctions on iraq were collective punishment for iraq having wmd, now we know iraq didnt have it and america killed half a million children iraqi children for nothing,and i am not even counting the current war)

    the fact of the matter is you israelis and along with the americans are going to make gaza into a smaller version of iraq with cancer,death and destruction, and by the way america used a neutron bomb on iraq during the battle of baghdad, which is horrific considering the fact that america went to war on the first place because iraq had “wmd”

    you people think your new empire will last for eternity but just like the mongolians who destroyed half of the middle east you will lose everything you are proud of,
    the bernard madoff story should be a wake up call but i guess you guys are dismissing him.

    america dropped so many bombs containing depleted uranium
    in iraq which has caused iraqis to have the worlds highest congenital defects rate

    you are also planning to do the same, also poisoning the land which you intend to use in the future.

    you might ask why am i so confident that america and israel will fail, after all i am just a palestinian.

    the answer is, you always do.

    let me give you a few examples, moses saves you from the egyptians, then you complain, then god makes you wander in the desert for 40 years, killing all the survivors of egypt and only allowing their children to inherit israel.(because they were innocent)

    and if that isnt enough, after king solomons reign, the greatest in israels history, israel is once again destroyed by an egyptian pharoe, named shishak who subsequently takes all of solomons treasure.

    and if that isnt enough you israelites continuously worship idols and you are continuously destroyed by foreign invaders starting from the ancient greeks.
    and if you jews loved the temple so much, then tell me why did you allow it to be a garbage dump under the european conquest of jerusalem???

    and remember the islamic caliph was the one who cleaned the garbage dump and built the mosque on top of it.

    your own torah chronicles how every time you think you are on top you are pulled down.

    as for my people losing to you in the 48,67,73 war, i say it was a good thing, the secular socialist arab regimes deserved to lose, all those lousy traitor arabs who adopted western philosophy lost face and in the 70s it woke the arabs up.

    i will be honest with you guys, i believe every single palestinian will be kicked out brutally with thousands killed when israel elects someone like moshe feiglin.

    and the oil rich arab countries will support you because they will invest money in the west and israel,and then you will tear down the mosque and build a jewish temple, culminating in the prophecy.

    the whole world will then worship you and your false messiah, including the traitor rich arab countries, and then you will go down again, why, because you will always worship a golden calf.(so will the traitor arabs)

  • Keep hoping, Simple Guy. You keep hoping just like your compatriots. You were hoping in 1920 and you were hoping in 1948 and you’re hoping again now. If you would instead hope for peace and co-existence, then you would have two states with their respective nations living in peace side by side. But it’s okay, Simple Guy, it really is okay for you to keep hoping that these democratic countries such as the US and Israel will fail. Every time you believe this, and especially whenever you act on these beliefs, you advance the cause of Israel. Were it not for the attacks in 1920 on Jews, the Yishuv would never have developed the defensive capabilities it did. If you hadn’t rejected the UN partition plan and attacked in 1948, Israel would have much smaller borders. If you hadn’t provoked in 1967, Jerusalem would be in Jordanian hands today. If you hadn’t launched the Palestinian War of 2000, you wouldn’t have the security barrier, anywhere near as many checkpoints and you’d probably have a state by now. If you hadn’t elected Hamas in Gaza, your lives would be far better instead of the hell they are as I write this.

    And so it goes. You keep dreaming the Israelis will fail, not understanding that your sick dream of watching their destruction is precisely what feeds their success and growth. You’d be better off seeking true peace where two nations end up compromising so they can live side by side.

  • Don’t forget to send us a postcard from the martyrdom operation, simple guy.

  • Where’s the part in the Old Testament where it predicts who’s going to win the Arab language version of American Idol? Or am I misinterpreting the gist of Nostradakhamus’ prophecies?

  • It’s often interesting to hear proud and not so well educated Arabs spouting off about the future. There’s a history website that I visit where a crotchety old semi-literate who goes by the name “Omar Ibrahim Baker” likes to post quatrain after quatrain of mathematically precise treatises on the globally-mandated destruction of Israel, or of the world – sometimes I’m not sure if he knows which. He would get into squabbles with esteemed professors who actually took the time to take his ravings to task. These dramatic battles that ensued were not only gratifying, but very intellectually satisfying to watch as you would see falsehood after falsehood crumble under the weight of persistent presentations of the actual historical record.

    The best lashing he exposed himself to occurred after being given a dozen polite requests to see if he’d like to kindly reconsider his protests to the effect that Hizbullah is not anti-Semitic. Then he was referred to the broadcasts of their station, al Manar. The prof showed the degree to which Omar would continue to deny evidence plainly in front of his face – all in an ostensible effort to preserve his ever-loving “honor”. (Arab culture is big on this). But the coup de grace was his remonstrative exposure and identification of what he then referred to as the “pre-empiric mindset.” Good times.

    I imagine some of these guys have a way of looking at the world that is not much different from how pre-Enlightenment Europeans would have seen and rationalized it. It’s almost like looking back into a time-warp of human civilization. Fascinating. And yet, so chilling.