'It's War,' Israelis Say

Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Friday, July 14, 2006

'It's War,' Israelis Say

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com ) - Israelis on Friday expressed surprise at the events of the last few days. Although many didn't expect such an escalation in the fighting, most agree that enough is enough: 'This is war,' some said.

In Beirut not everyone is happy with Hizballah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers, but some blame foreign nations -- Syria and Iran -- for being behind the abduction.

The Israeli Air Force bombed a Hizballah headquarters in southern Beirut as well as access routes and bridges along the main Beirut-Damascus highway overnight after two Katyusha rockets hit Israel's third largest city, Haifa, on Thursday evening.

Some 100 Katyusha rockets slammed into Israel on Thursday, killing two Israelis and wounding about 120 others.

Tens of thousands of Israelis were staying in bomb shelters and security rooms in northern Israel, but security officials advised northern residents to stock up on food before the Sabbath. In Haifa, residents were advised to stay close to shelters.

Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz vowed to "break" Hizballah after the strike on Haifa.

Israelis are quickly adapting to the new reality. Many in Jerusalem told Cybercast News Service on Friday that the war is long overdue.

Stella was her way to the Wailing Wall to pray for the country on Friday. Waves of rockets slammed into Safed, where Stella was visiting her brother, on Thursday, killing one person and wounding dozens of others. One rocket hit not far from her brother's shop.

"We need to go in [to Lebanon] and bring an end to it. We need to go in quickly and to destroy them [Hizballah] and take our soldiers back home," said Stella, referring to the abduction earlier this week of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack by Hizballah.

Shimon, 32, was a soldier in Lebanon before the year 2000, when Israel still maintained a security zone there. On Friday morning, he was sitting in the small convenience store in Jerusalem where he works.

"I was sure that we would return to [Lebanon] just like I was certain that we would return to Gush Katif," Shimon said of the Gaza Strip. "It's impossible to deal with them [the Arabs]. They're barbarians...We can't be nice to them."

Shimon said he welcomes a war. He believes that Israel should go as far as necessary to put an end to the troubles, even if it means going to Lebanon or Syria. "It's enough. We need to really make a war and not say there is one and not [fight it]. Make a war and finish with it. I'm sure [Israel can win] as long as she isn't afraid of what the world will say," he said.

Orly, a mother of four, said her husband may be called up soon for reserve duty. She said she was surprised by the developments of the last few days but she agrees that Israel must take tough action.

"There is no choice," Orly said. "They [army] have to show a strong hand. We tolerate and tolerate...there's no choice." At the very least, she said, she hopes that Israel will push Hizballah back from the border area, and she questioned why the United Nations allowed them to come so close in the area.

A few days ago, Orly said her friend had commented on the cultural difference between Israelis and Arabs. "We live in the Middle East and we are trying to maintain a lifestyle like Europe," she said. She mentioned TV footage of Arabs dancing on rooftops and handing out candy following the Hizballah attack: "Israelis would never do that," she said.

Yigal, 49, was selling flowers on pedestrian mall in downtown Jerusalem on Friday.

"What can you do? They are trying us every few months...testing [our] ability. If missiles are reaching Haifa and they are kidnapping soldiers, the time has come," Yigal said.

"The government of Lebanon needs to tell their army to deploy on this border and there won't be all this terror there... We want peace and quiet. We don't want violence. We don't want war," he said.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese are feeling the crunch. Some 60 Lebanese were reported killed in Israeli air strikes.

Beirut has demanded that the United Nations call for an immediate ceasefire, and it held a stormy cabinet meeting overnight. Not everyone in the Lebanese government is happy with Hizballah's aggression.

One Lebanese cabinet minister admitted that the government could not control Hizballah because they had gone "far too far." In an interview with the BBC, the minister said some cabinet members had made that clear to Hizballah. "We think what they have done was pushed by foreign countries, namely Syria and Iran," she said.

Israel also has pointed a finger at Syria and Iran for being behind the cross-border attack on Wednesday but has held Lebanon responsible since Hizballah is part of the Lebanese government.

It is not clear how far Israel will take the military operation. Israeli jets recently buzzed the palace of Syrian President Bashar Assad following a Hamas operation in which an Israeli soldier was kidnapped into Gaza.

Syria, which shares a relatively quiet border with Israel, recently signed a military cooperation pact with Iran.

Iranian state television reported that Ahmadinejad phoned Syrian President Bashar Assad Thursday evening and told the Syrian leader that if Israel widens its military operation to target Syria, "this will be considered like attacking the whole Islamic world and this regime will receive a very fierce response.""

Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.