has begun moving troops toward the Gaza Strip
and authorized the call-up of reservists for a possible ground invasion of the Palestinian territory.
At least a dozen trucks carrying tanks and armored vehicles were seen late Thursday moving toward the border area, while buses ferried soldiers.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
has instructed the ministry's legal counsel to ask the government for authorization to draft reserve forces for possible activity in Gaza. The army said as many as 30,000 troops could be drafted.
Military officials said the moves were preparations for a possible ground operation, but no decision has been made on whether to enter Gaza.
Soldiers in Kiryat Malachi (Photo: George Ginsburg)
Israel's air force launched an offensive against Gaza terrorists on Wednesday. But continued rocket fire out of Gaza on Thursday, which included attacks on Rishon Lezion and the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, has raised the likelihood of a ground invasion.
IDF tank in south (Photo: Yoav Zitun)
expanded the operation Thursday evening, with Palestinian sources in Gaza reporting of at least 10 different attacks on specific targets throughout the coastal enclave.
The targets were various positions and strongholds of Hamas'
security forces, as well as missile launching sites.
Tank transported to Gaza border (Photo: Yoav Zitun)
So far some 1,000 soldiers have been issued special emergency orders. Some of the soldiers, including those who belong to elite units, have reported to meeting point near the Gaza border.
IDF strike in Gaza (Photo: AFP)
The army said more than 200 strikes in Gaza have damaged Hamas and Islamic Jihad's rocket-firing capabilities. The IDF spokesman said units belonging to the Paratroopers and Givati brigades were making their way to the Gaza border, where they will wait for instructions from the security establishment.
Meanwhile, logistical preparations for the possible ground incursion continue. Some battalion commanders have received orders to halt all training exercises and prepare for the possibility of moving their units to Gaza.
"Finally, a little action. It sure beats sitting at home in a secure space," said Beersheba resident Hila Damari, a reserve soldier who was called up to man an IDF observation post. She said her friends are also highly motivated.
Eyal Gido, a paratrooper who completed his army service just a year- and a half ago, is also making his way south after being called up. "I really want to take part in the activity in Gaza. I've been waiting a long time for this," he told Ynet. "The rocket fire on the south has become routine. I have no fear. It is time to do what must be done.
Some reservists did not receive their recruitment with the same enthusiasm. "I am from the Tel Avivian 'bubble,' and obviously this disrupts my daily life, but I believe that something must be done to change the situation on the ground," said Dr. Guy Shapira, who is assigned to a reconnaissance unit.
"I just hope the government has some long-term plans beyond the operation in Gaza, though this does not seem to be the case at the moment."