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Israelis resolve to use more force

Army casualties lead Israeli public to back more force against Hizbullah.

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With relatively heavy losses in Lebanon and unexpectedly fierce resistance from Hizbullah, the Israeli army shifted Thursday in the direction of using far more firepower in the two-week-old conflict.

While many nations are increasingly critical of Israel's offensive in Lebanon, the mainstream Israeli reading of the situation seems the opposite: Much more military force – not less – is the key to beating back Hizbullah.

One barometer of the Israeli outlook ticked higher as Israel's security cabinet Thursday authorized a broader call-up of reservists, indicating it might send a much larger contingent of forces into Lebanon. The decision came as Israelis watched the procession of funerals of soldiers throughout the day, coupled with a widespread attitude that the Israeli military should "take the gloves off" in dealing with Hizbullah militants.

"Greater Determination, Less Sensitivity," read the front-page headline in Maariv, a mainstream Israeli daily. "Woe is to us if we act in proportion, and what would that actually consist of? One bomb from a plane in return for a rocket? One artillery shell in return for a Katyusha?" railed Amnon Dankner, the paper's editor in chief, and analyst Dan Margalit, in a jointly written commentary.

Opinion pages and air waves are filled with arguments about whether Israel should focus on using its technological edge over Hizbullah through more aerial attacks and artillery shelling instead of sending in new ground troops who are vulnerable to attack.

On Wednesday, Israel suffered the greatest number of military casualties in the conflict that began July 12 after Hizbullah captured two Israeli soldiers. Nine soldiers were killed in house-to-house fighting in the Hizbullah stronghold Bint Jbail. So far, at least 433 Lebanese and 51 Israelis have been killed. Thursday, the Israeli army continued to pound Lebanon from the air, while Hizbullah launched about 75 Katyusha rockets into Israel.

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