|Israeli troops have been massed along the border with the Gaza Strip [GALLO/GETTY]
As Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, says Israel's military is in an "all-out war" with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera asked Israelis how they feel about the ongoing offensive and the prospect of a ground incursion.
This is what they had to say:
"I was waiting for this attack for years - I wish they had done this sooner, it would have saved people's lives, on both sides.
No country lets its civilians live under fire. For eight years we have been bombed by terrorists.
I am not in the government or the military and I don't know the right way, but Hamas has to be stopped. I hope they will damage the rocket launchers and teach Hamas that they can't continue, that they can't just hurt civilians and use terror.
If Hamas really cared about their people, it would make sure people aren't hurt. But they don't care. They use people as protection for their own military terrorism - they use kindergartens and houses and send terror attacks out of civilian areas, which endangers their own people.
This town is not functioning now. There is nobody at school. We accept these conditions if it will improve things for us. If they really destroy Hamas it will be worth it. That is what we pray for."
"This cannot be the answer. There is no way that we can keep fighting to make ourselves safe - the more ammunition we throw at this, the more hatred there will be, and the less the chance for peace.
They are trying to get the Palestinians into a position of utmost despair, but the most likely outcome is that there will be another Palestinian uprising, more armed clashes and a continuation of the struggle. It will just bring about more devastation.
Even if they [the Israeli army] are able to pacify Hamas for a while, it won't be for the long term. And the real outcome is that we will have more people feeling pain, because their lives have been damaged by this or because they are Israeli soldiers that had to do things they shouldn't and have to deal with that.
"This cannot be the answer .... The more ammunition we throw at this, the more hatred there will be, and the less the chance for peace"
The fact is that you can't bring people to submission using arms. You can't pacify people who have been oppressed. It doesn't matter how long you terrorise them, they will rise up again eventually.
I don't think it's a matter of proportion, but a question of policy and it is very clear that the current Israeli strike is completely unprecedented [in Gaza], outrageous and uncalled for – but a minor attack would not have been more justifiable. It is just not a workable policy. The issue is how you reach a policy that pushes things forward and doesn't promote fear and hatred and the ruin of people's lives.
I think it is completely uncalled for to send in ground troops. It is clearly just going to bring more bloodshed and more dead Israeli soldiers – and we have had enough of that. I am worried about Gilad Shalit – I think that it is extremely irresponsible of the Israeli government, and the more the situation escalates, the more bleak are his chances.
There is no way that this attack will bring peace to people in Sderot. They are suffering; those poor people live in poverty and danger and were put on the frontline. I want the people of Sderot to live peacefully and without worries – but this is not going to get them there."
"I support the raids and I think the Israeli reaction is not disproportionate. The Israeli army is an army that can aim when it shoots and it aims to hit the military power of Hamas.
When Hamas is firing rockets on Israel, it does not aim to hit the military, just women and children.
I think that as long as Hamas and the Palestinians continue to think that instead of investing their time in building their economy, healthcare, trade and other aspects of their social web that can improve their daily experience, it is more important to invest their time in thoughts of how to destroy Israel, they will suffer.
Hamas robs the Palestinians of their basic human rights and lets them believe in dreams that will never come true.
If Hamas will not stop, Israel will do everything in its power to protect itself, a ground attack if necessary, and I will support it.
I hope the Palestinian people will understand that they have more to gain from peace than from war with us."
|Jonathan Segal, 45, Tel Aviv
"I went to bed that night thinking of the horror that the Gazans were feeling and how frightening it must be to be there. Then I ask myself the same old question: "Why do people like Hamas think that violence and military force are the solution?"
No force in the world will convince Israel to agree to endanger her citizens or jeopardise the state's existence.
The situation in the south with the missiles for so long now is totally unacceptable and decisive action had to be taken to sort things out. There was no other choice and Hamas had so many opportunities to get 'down from the tree' that they had climbed into and had so many forewarnings but alas they preferred to stick to their rigid policies and even convinced themselves that it has a chance.
|An Israeli boy stands next to a wall hit by a Palestinian rocket [GALLO/GETTY]
Today, as Hamas rules Gaza, elected and supported by the local population, it is in fact like a country of their own with their own government and military force. As between any two countries, if one attacks the other then you must expect a reaction.
The targets have been military targets. However due to the population density of Gaza and the intentional intertwining of civilians and soldiers where often a military outpost is a home and a home a military outpost civilians have been hurt.
I believe that any ground action must be carefully considered as loss of Israeli lives on this would turn the whole mission sour. The goals have to be carefully weighed against the price. If necessary, and if a ground incursion can be implemented effectively and with minimum casualties for the Israelis, then it should be done.
I put my trust in the current military leaders of Israel to take intelligent and well thought out decisions."
"We are two families sitting here in the same home with five small children and every five minutes we have to run to the shelter inside our house.
The paradox is that when the army planes fly over us to attack them, we are frightened and enter into a panic, too. We have taken a tough hit for eight years.
People who don't live in Sderot don't understand the situation here, just as those who don't live in Gaza don't understand their situation. But I know they suffer and I know we suffer as well.
At the end of the day there will be an agreement, so why do we have to go through this process of killing and shedding blood first? Why can't we stop? Why do we need for them to suffer so terribly, and I have no doubt that they are suffering more than us.
We in Sderot are so sick of this and they must be saying the same thing. I am totally against these attacks on Gaza. I live here and I try to talk to the other side, to find some sort of contact.
We had five months of truce, but instead of using the opportunity to solve the problem, each side went and stockpiled weapons. There is a total lack of belief on both sides and it's depressing, the feeling that we only prepare for war.
What will come of these attacks? Nothing! Maybe the outside world will start to demand peace. But if we go to a ground attack it will mean great suffering for both sides, for a long time. We will only end up hating each other more. A mother whose child has just died in the attacks will feel hate for the other side. And attacks like this always strengthen the extremists, maybe not Hamas but other groups who are extreme.
If we stop today, now, there is some chance that we can start believing in each other again."
"I don't support any act of violence whatsoever but on the other hand I do support a strong military response when the other side doesn't understand anything but violence.
I am aware that life in the Gaza Strip hasn't been simple and people suffer on a daily basis from the siege that Israel imposes on them. But the Palestinian people should ask themselves why. The answer is simple. Every time we try to normalise the situation, Hamas decides to show their nation how strong they are and how they can attack the Israelis over the border.
"Every time we try to normalise the situation, Hamas decides to show their nation how strong they are and how they can attack the Israelis over the border"
I am not saying Israel is a saint. We have done our share of bad deeds but we are trying to move forward to better times.
If Hamas stops arming itself for the sole purpose of destroying Israel, if Gilad Shalit is returned to his house after almost four years, if rule is returned to the Palestinian Authority, if all kinds of attacks on Israel are stopped, Israel will not only cancel any future ground incursion, they will also open the passages and revive the economic centre on the border to supply Palestinians with work.
They should think wisely. I think enough Palestinian and Israeli blood has been spilled. Both nations are hurt from the ongoing situation. I don't want to see Israeli soldiers die in vain when eventually we will leave Gaza again - you see it is an ongoing cycle and Hamas can stop it."
"I would like to say that I am sorry for every innocent life lost in Gaza. That isn't the goal. The goal is to end the rule of Hamas and therefore protect the Israeli towns.
I strongly support the attack on Hamas because that was the only way to stop them from firing rockets on all of southern Israel.
Our leaders warned Hamas that the outcome of its actions would be hard and painful but that didn't help and they carried on.
This attack will surely weaken Hamas both militarily and socially. Now it will be very hard for Hamas to shoot against Israel and, as said by many, the Gazans will realise that Hamas is only making their life worse than ever.
I think that Hamas will get the message in the end that terror isn't working and is not aiding the Palestinians on their way to independence."
"I very much support the Israeli operation in Gaza. I feel extremely sad that there are, and will be, civilian deaths, but I believe no other country in the world would have waited so long and put up with constant shelling on their sovereign territory.
|Israelis are reflecting on the prospect of a ground offensive [GALLO/GETTY]
Israel left Gaza in 2005, literally dragging out our citizens, against much public uproar.
Over 6,000 missiles/rockets/mortars have been sent to Israel from Gaza since our pull-out - not to disputed areas, not to the "occupied territories" - but to places that have been part of Israel since 1948.
Gazans voted for Hamas knowing that they refuse to accept the existence of Israel. What else would anyone expect a nation to do? How can you negotiate with people who do not accept your existence?
Why haven't the Gazans kept Hamas from taking over? Why haven't they used their intelligence and skills to develop a society that doesn't breed hate and murder? Why do families think that it's an honour to have a child die as a suicide bomber rather than grow up and contribute to their society? Where are the moderates who disagree with Hamas, that want their families to grow up with peace and mutual respect?
Where I live, our Arab citizens shop with us in our community's malls, work in our stores with us - I see no apartheid. They wait in the same physician's office with us. There is no reason that we cannot mutually respect each other and live in peace.
Although this plan was originally developed six months ago, the Israeli government deliberately waited until the end of the "ceasefire" to see if the south would be attacked again. And it was - the day it ended. Very heavily. And to add to mix Hamas goaded Israel about its non-response. Again, I ask, what other country would allow this?"
Additional reporting by Rachel Shabi
Please click here to read the accompanying article Voices from Gaza.