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On the Gaza-Israel border, Israeli reservists weigh a ground assault

As trucks hauled armored vehicles in southern Israel, thousands of reservists headed to training bases, resigned to a ground assault: If the rocket fire doesn't end, said one, 'we'll have no choice.'

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Israeli soldiers patrol the border near northern Gaza; a ground invasion of the Palestinian-held territory may be imminent.

Darren Whiteside/Reuters

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On Saturday, Israel’s army seemed poised to launch a ground assault into the Gaza Strip after four days of war with Hamas, as flatbed trucks hauled armored vehicles around southern Israel and thousands of reservist call-ups donned rumpled uniforms en route to training bases.

The call-ups, whose numbers could be expanded to 75,000, make de-escalation more difficult because the move raises expectations in Israel for a ground assault and shortens the window of decision for the final order to deploy the soldiers. 

The veteran soldiers are considered the army's backbone, and several thousand were served notice on Friday, getting emergency draft notices in the middle of the Israeli weekend. 

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"We are going to do what needs to be done, We’ll show them that no one is better than Israel,’’ said Yaniv, a 36-year-old medical officer with a paunch and an M-16 slung over his shoulder.

As he ordered a cappuccino at a gas station rest stop, he declined to ponder whether the operation would succeed in snuffing out rocket fire from Hamas militants. 

"I’m not a general. We are going to finish this off and bring quiet" to southern Israel, he said.

Focus on air attacks

So far, Israel has been focusing on air attacks in the conflict, but a ground invasion is expected to put added pressure on Hamas, just as in 2009.

In the past four days, Israeli aircraft have carried out 1,000 strikes on Hamas and militant targets with precision munitions, leaving 37 Palestinians dead, nearly half of them civilians. Meanwhile, Hamas and affiliated militant groups continue to launch rockets, raising the prospect of a ground assault.

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