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Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Staff Sgt. Moshe Melako, 20, during his funeral at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem, Monday, July 21, 2014. Melako was one of 13 soldiers killed in several separate incidents in Shijaiyah on Sunday, as Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing scores of Palestinians and more than a dozen Israeli soldiers. In Israel, a country where military service is mandatory for most citizens, military losses are considered every bit as tragic as civilian ones. (AP Photo/Sebastian
Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of Staff Sgt. Moshe Melako, 20, during his funeral at the Mount Herzel military cemetery in Jerusalem, Monday, July 21, 2014. Melako was one of 13 soldiers killed in several separate incidents in Shijaiyah on Sunday, as Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price, killing scores of Palestinians and more than a dozen Israeli soldiers. In Israel, a country where military service is mandatory for most citizens, military losses are considered every bit as tragic as civilian ones. (AP Photo/Sebastian

For almost two weeks, Israel practically bristled with confidence and pride: The Iron Dome air defense system was dependably zapping incoming Hamas rockets from the skies, the military was successfully repelling infiltration attempts on the ground and from the sea, and the conflict with Hamas was causing almost no casualties in Israel.

That has changed in what seems like a flash, after at least 25 soldiers were killed and scores injured — a predictable yet still stunning outcome of the fateful decision, announced late Thursday, to send troops and tanks by land into Hamas-ruled Gaza.

In a country where military service is mandatory for most citizens, and military losses are considered every bit as tragic as civilian ones, the reaction to the setbacks was electric. Newspapers and broadcasts have been dominated by images and tales of the fallen — mostly young faces barely out of high school — and interviews with parents concerned for offspring so clearly now imperiled.

Angst over the highest military toll since the 2006 Lebanon war now mixes with a cocktail of emotions: on one hand, a strong current of determination to press on with efforts to end the rocket fire from Gaza; on the other, the sinking feeling that a quagmire is at hand.

A wounded Israeli soldier arrives for the funeral of Maj. Tzafrir Bar-Or, 32, one of 13 soldiers killed in several separate incidents in Shijaiyah on Sunday, at the military cemetery in Holon, Israel, Monday, July 21, 2014.
A wounded Israeli soldier arrives for the funeral of Maj. Tzafrir Bar-Or, 32, one of 13 soldiers killed in several separate incidents in Shijaiyah on Sunday, at the military cemetery in Holon, Israel, Monday, July 21, 2014.

“It’s ugly and it’s no walk in the park,” said Alon Geller, a 42-year-old legal intern from central Israel. “But we have to finish the operation. If we stop now before reaching our goals, the soldiers will have died in vain.”

But the Haaretz newspaper warned against mission creep and the “wholesale killing” of Palestinian civilians. “The soft Gaza sand … could turn into quicksand,” it said in its editorial Monday. “There can be no victory here. … Israel must limit its time in the Strip.”

There was always near-consensus among Israelis for the airstrikes aimed at ending the rocket fire, which they considered unreasonable and outrageous. The Palestinian fatalities caused by the airstrikes — over 500 in two weeks, many of them civilians — are generally blamed here on Hamas, for locating launchers in civilian areas and for proving to be cynical and nihilistic, to Israeli eyes, at every turn.

But a ground invasion of Gaza is another story, and the government had clearly hesitated to take the risk. House-to-house fighting, tanks exposed in fields, the danger of a soldier being kidnapped, to be traded for thousands after years in captivity: It is an untidy and dispiriting affair.

The government felt it necessary to take such a risky step because despite all the damage being inflicted on Gaza by the airstrikes, the Hamas rocket fire simply did not stop. Israeli officials also felt world opinion would understand after Hamas rejected a cease-fire proposal that Israel had accepted.

Complicating the situation from Israel’s perspective, Hamas does not seem to be coming under significant pressure from the people of Gaza despite the devastation they are enduring. While Gaza is no democracy and Hamas rules by force, this seems to reflect genuine support for Hamas’ aim of breaking the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt on the strip.

Emboldened, Hamas ratcheted up attempts to carry out deadly attacks against Israeli border communities through tunnels dug underneath the fence separating Israel from Gaza. For Israelis, that raised a terrifying specter of families in placid farming areas on the edge of the Negev desert waking up to find swarms of Islamic militants in their midst.

“This brought it home that they are out to kill us and we have to stop them,” said Yehuda Ben-Meir, a political analyst at the Institute for National Security Studies. “No one can say he (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) was trigger-happy. It convinced the Israeli public that the decision taken by Netanyahu came from a sense of ‘we have no other choice.'”

A wounded Israeli soldier arrives for the funeral of Maj. Tzafrir Bar-Or, 32, one of 13 soldiers killed in several separate incidents in Shijaiyah on Sunday, at the military cemetery in Holon, Israel, Monday, July 21, 2014.
A wounded Israeli soldier arrives for the funeral of Maj. Tzafrir Bar-Or, 32, one of 13 soldiers killed in several separate incidents in Shijaiyah on Sunday, at the military cemetery in Holon, Israel, Monday, July 21, 2014.

Despite the absence of panic Monday, it is clear that if soldiers continue to be killed at this rate, the flexibility enjoyed by Netanyahu to date will likely be replaced by a growing sense of urgency to stop the casualties. Many Israeli leftists will demand an end to the operation. Hard-liners will demand more radical action, up to and including a takeover of Gaza. That will add to the already mounting pressure from an outside world horrified by the carnage on the Palestinian side.

The prime minister is probably mindful that the popularity tipping point for his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, came when the public concluded too many soldiers were being killed and that the military was not fully prepared during the 2006 war.

Some — in the government and on the street — are already calling for a total invasion aimed at ousting Hamas, even if this leaves Israel again occupying a hostile and impoverished population of 1.8 million, as it did for nearly four uncomfortable decades until its pullout from Gaza in 2005. For the moment the ground operation is mostly limited to areas relatively near the Israeli border, where Israel is shutting down tunnels and hunting for rocket launchers; a takeover of Gaza City would probably be much more costly still.

“I hate war. I’m pained by every death,” said Haviv Shabtai, a 61-year-old Jerusalem bus driver who has served in several wars, has a son currently called up, and had opposed a ground invasion because of the risk. Shabtai said he took the losses personally and was even physically overwhelmed at the news.

“After recovering from that shock,” he said, “I say go all the way.”

Associated Press

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18 Comments

  • The real lebanese

    I dont think Israel will stop this time until they clear Gaza out of all rocket launchers and supplies.

    • 5thDrawer

      The LAF is trying that in Tripoli …. seems to take a while.
      There’s a lot of ‘Pack Rats’ running around.

  • $89733098

    May the pigs rot in hell forever!
    And may “real” zionist pig who calls itself lebanese join them.

  • Leborigine

    Its not hard to turn dark when you are surrounded by death, whether its one or 100. An israeli soldier is no more valuable than a Palestinian citizen! Not sure if bibi was clearly thinking about the repercussions of invading Gaza, but if he thought that going in without any israeli loss, then he must have rocks in his head! I just hope that this all ends, surely there is another way of resolving this.

    • we never believed for a second we’ll finish this without casualties.and the worst is yet to come.
      the best way to describe every day israeli’s mood now would be grim determination.

  • (July 22, 2014) : I have pointed out that India is now the sole superpower and can compel the United States to do anything it wants it to do and, through the United States, compel any other country to do whatever it wants it to do. At present, India’s nuclear forces stand ready to destroy Washington and New York with a warning that additional U.S. cities will be destroyed unless it uses its ICBMs to destroy Tel Aviv and Haifa if Israel does not stop its invasion of Gaza.

    (July 20, 2014) CAN TAMIL BE COMPARED TO SANSKRIT?

    Tamilian Jayalalitha objects to observing a Sanskrit week and demands a “classical languages week” putting Tamil at the same level as Sanskrit. Sanskrit mantras can command the forces of nature; anyone can see videos of thousands of practitioners of Transcendental Meditation spectacularly overcoming gravity every day and this is a trivial example of the power of Sanskrit. Can Tamil do that? No language can be compared to Dev Bhasha Sanskrit. I was aghast to see on Bharat-Rakshak — a collection of bhangis and chamars — someone say Jews are the Brahmins of the Middle East, defiling the word ‘Brahmin’ and defiling India. Any Indian, no matter what his caste, is higher than a Westerner who by definition are ‘mlecchas’ and the lowliest worm is higher than a Jew. To restore social order, Jews and Americans must be denied entry to India just as they would be denied entry to a temple.

    (July 17, 2014) MALAYSIAN AIRLINER THAT CRASHED IN UKRAINE WAS BROUGHT DOWN BY MICROWAVE SIGNALS FROM UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY SATELLITES. See ‘Indian Air Force Pilots’ Murder’ : IndianAirForcePilotsMurderDOTblogspotDOTcom . This was done to keep the conflict alive and keep the former republics from reuniting as I had suggested below :-

    Russia and Ukraine are a single country temporarily separated by the machinations of the CIA. They should forget everything and re-unite with the help of other republics that were part of the same country, with no role for the EU or the UN. A body of representatives of the former republics including Russia and Ukraine should by consensus make all decisions which everyone has to abide by. The separate republics are the result of a voluntary dissolution of a utopian state because of its leaders’ willingness to experiment. By now it is clear that the republics should re-integrate.

    Ukrainians should at least suspend their strife till after the destruction of the United States. Indians are going crazy that, in response to my reference to Modi fighting for a U.S. visa, the United States wants to “honor” Modi by having him address a joint session of U.S. Congress. They are silent about the honor given to the greatest Indian of all time:- “”India’s greatest scientist and greatest living Indian publicly tortured in Harvard seminar, systematically and totally starved for up to 3 weeks at a time, made semi-starved and homeless and even blind for years, kept under 24-hour audio and video surveillance as well as surveillance of [and interference with] communications and electrical typewriter and computer use, document creation and photocopying, etc., by satellite for more than past 3 decades, systematically harassed and in poverty and neutralised and robbed of his work at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars per year, robbed of crores in his money and property in India by C.I.A.-RAW, forced back into exile in the U.S., all with full cooperation and participation of India’s RAW and India’s C.I.A.-RAW-controlled prime ministers, politicians and media — to keep India poor, weak and enslaved” and how this means the nuclear destruction of New Delhi and then the coast-to-coast destruction of the U.S.; see my blog titled ‘Nuclear Supremacy For India Over U.S.’ which can be found by a Yahoo/Google search with the title; my biography can be found in Marquis’ Who’s Who in the World, 2014 and earlier editions.” In the past few years I have had India’s nuclear forces emplace India’s nuclear warheads in Washington, New York and other U.S. cities, ready to be exploded. Simultaneously destroying Washington, New York and New Delhi (RAW headquarters, South Block and North Block) with a warning that additional U.S. cities will be similarly destroyed, with nuclear warheads already emplaced in them, if there is any retaliation or sign of retaliation, will immediately make India the supreme military and economic power in the world even before implementing my proposal about money which can make India’s economy grow 30% per year or more. IndiasLegitimateRulerSatishChandraDOTblogspotDOTcom

    FORGET PALESTINIANS, NO ONE HAS DONE MORE DAMAGE TO INDIA THAN THE JEWS. CUT OUT SUSHMA SWARAJ’S UGLY TWAT AND THROW HER ON A DUNG HEAP.

    I have said no one has done more damage to India, in science and in everything else, than the Jews. See ‘This Is What the Jews, Americans and RAW Have Been Doing’ : ThisIsWhatTheJewsHaveBeenDoingDOTblogspotDOTcom . In a letter dated July 27, 1982 to Indira Gandhi as prime minister I referred to an act, by American Jews, that was “the equivalent of an annihilatory nuclear first strike on India”. In her reply dated July 29, 1982 she wrote “Dear Mr. Chandra, I have received your letter dated July 27, 1982 and am passing it on to my Principal Secretary to deal with it. Sincerely, Indira Gandhi”. In December, 1982 I wrote to her “There was sudden, terminal, overwhelming violence against me during a seminar at Harvard University and rather similar occurrences earlier… India can expect sudden, annihilatory violence … with nuclear weapons … against its population … unless it can mount a decisively superior force to stop it”. Following my advice, India’s strategic program, including the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme and the Centre for Advanced Technology, was started to give India victory in a nuclear war with the United States and because of my influence on her, Indira Gandhi as prime minister was assassinated by CIA-RAW and later when Rajiv Gandhi realized the truth of what I had written to her after the American invasion of Iraq which was the first Gulf War, he was also assassinated by CIA-RAW. In the past few years, I have had India’s nuclear forces emplace nuclear warheads in Washington, New York and other U.S. cities and India is now in a position to destroy the United States without being destroyed. In fact, India is in a position now to destroy the United States without itself suffering a single casualty by triggering its nuclear warheads emplaced in Washington and New York with a warning that additional U.S. cities will be similarly destroyed if there is any retaliation or sign of retaliation. Goonda Modi and his Cabinet are determined to keep India in slavery.

    For the past 37 years, the U.S. National Security Agency has kept me under 24-hour audio, video and communications surveillance by satellite and feeds of this surveillance are provided to India’s RAW as well as to Russian intelligence. When he was president, Bill Clinton held a White House conference on “The New Economy” which results from my proposal about money described in “How India’s Economy Can Grow 30% Per Year Or More” : HowIndiasEconomyCanGrowDOTblogsourDOTcom . The CIA has been stealing my intellectually property for the past 37 years while inflicting as much injury and degradation on me as possible with the fullest participation of just about everyone who is anyone in the American government, media, academia, etc.; this is one reason why the United States has to be destroyed by India’s nuclear forces.

    Satish Chandra

    • Did they just release you from a cuckoo’s nest?

      • did I hear cuckoo? nest? where is the birdie Hannibal? oh I get it cuclkoo cuckoo, got exited for nothing but my fault I should have smelled the curry =D

      • 5thDrawer

        No … he’s been out for a while. :-)))

  • Maborlz Ez-Hari

    Isreal needs to be be conquered and ruled by thr Romans again. Instead of Ceaser maybe the Gambino Family. They are more civilized than the jew.

    • i notice you don’t want Muslims to rule the land..it’s a start

      • Maborlz Ez-Hari

        Correct you guys have too much in common.

        • LOL

        • Maborlz Ez-Hari

          The Romans love life, and arent into kosher or halal court rooms, its a lot more brighter for everyone.

        • 5thDrawer

          Yes .. The ‘Religiosity’ just simply Oooozes out of the place, doesn’t it?
          Not that we really want the Gambinos.
          In Quebec they build bridges that collapse under traffic.
          The Old Romans built things to last.
          (maybe not Democracy …)

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