Among Israelis, Pressure Swells To Commence Ground War In Gaza

One of the first serious hits by a Hamas rocket has left a gas station burning — and one Israeli badly injured — as Israel ramps up talk of a Gaza ground invasion. But that carries a lot of downsides.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

As we mentioned, no Israelis have been killed by rocket fire, but one strike today did cause severe injuries and damage. Around 8:30 in the morning local time, a rocket struck a gas station in Ashdod. One man was sent to the hospital seriously wounded. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports this increases the internal pressure on Israel to stage a ground invasion.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: A taxi driver Avram Ayash, comes to this gas station every day. This morning he watched the place go up in flames.

AVRAM AYASH: (Through translator) I came in the morning to get my newspaper and I was in my car when all of a sudden I heard a huge explosion. Next thing I know, a man was collapsed here and they rushed him to hospital. It was terrible to see.

SHAPIRO: Not three hours after the rocket landed, Israel's Minister of Housing Uri Ariel, arrived at the charred blackened husk of a building. He crunched across the broken glass and delivered a message that amounted to, I warned you this would happen.

URI ARIEL: (Through translator) We must react strongly against the terrorist cells in Gaza, we must go in with ground forces and we have to change the formula that's existed until now with terrorist organizations.

SHAPIRO: Ariel is a hawk, he belongs to one of Israel's right-wing parties has been urging a ground invasion for a long time, now voices like his are getting louder in Israel.

SHIRLEY CHANDER: Let me do war, I will do it right.

SHAPIRO: Shirley Chander manages the gas station convenience store here. She says she's in shock from watching her workplace explode.

CHANDER: (Through translator) It's not right that we have to take these missiles, it shouldn't be this way. We have to finish them off, once and for all.

SHAPIRO: But a ground battle would probably mean Israeli soldiers dying. Galit El-Chai has two sons in the Army. Her father is the taxi driver who was nearly killed this morning.

GALIT EL-CHAI: (Through translator) No, I really don't want a ground invasion - definitely not. But if do want it to end already and I want it to be quite.

SHAPIRO: A ground invasion would also mean more Palestinian casualties than the 100 that have died already. Apart from the humanitarian catastrophe, a much larger death toll could bring condemnation from the world community. In the past that kind of outcry has helped end these conflicts. Anticipating that, today Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel won't be deterred by a global outcry. Israel seems to be in a trap says Professor Yaron Ezrahi of Hebrew University.

YARON EZRAHI: You damned if you invade and you damned if you don't.

SHAPIRO: Ezrahi says it's not even clear what a ground invasion would accomplish.

EZRAHI: The attempt to conquer Gaza or eliminate Hamas may easily produce a worse alternative. Hamas is much better than chaos. We see chaos in places like Iraq and Syria.

SHAPIRO: Israel has been moving tanks up to the Gaza border. The military has called up to tens of thousands of reserve troops, setting the stage for a possible invasion. In Israel this week, dinner table conversation is all about whether the government is bluffing or actually preparing to invade. Political analysts say it's probably a little of both. Israel has a coalition government with many parties and for every opinion you can find among the citizens, chances are someone in Israel's government is making that same argument.

BLOCK: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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