SAN FRANCISCO -- It has been three weeks since the bloody attacks on Israel and the relentless bombing of Gaza in response. Now it appears that Israel is poised for a ground attack, even as the battle for world opinion rages on.
Friday night, Israeli tanks began a ground incursion into Gaza. Whether they will stay is unknown but Israel's defense minister Yoav Gallant seemed pretty clear, saying, "We moved to the next stage in the war. Last evening, the ground shook in Gaza. We attacked above ground and underground. The instructions to the forces are clear. The campaign will continue until further notice."
Israel said it is targeting Hamas but Gaza is not the only place the war is happening. It's also happening right here, with rallies like one on Saturday in the plaza across from San Francisco's Ferry Building growing in size and intensity with each passing week.
"I mean, Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed by the day," said Reem Assil, with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. "We're seeing it -- 1.4 million are without homes. No food, no access to water. This is a humanitarian crisis. This is a man-made humanitarian crisis and I fear that it will only get worse."
"My fear is that they will just abolish all the Palestinians out of Palestine," said Sam Dugman, a Palestinian living in Fremont. "They will just get rid of them, one way or another."
In the crowd, there were plenty of Jewish people, as well, calling for Israel to resist a ground assault on Gaza.
"You know, we've seen it coming," said Seth Morrison, a member of Jewish Voice For Peace. "But again, without a ceasefire, there's never going to be any chance of peace for either side."
Peace is probably not the objective of either side right now. Hamas operates in a vast array of tunnels dug under densely populated areas of Gaza which will be a tactical nightmare for Israel if and when it begins a ground assault.
Roger Feigelson is executive director of SF Hillel, a cultural group for Bay Area Jewish college students. He's concerned what a ground assault could mean for public opinion.
"I think it makes it much more complicated for us, especially as American Jews here," he said. "The college students are already on edge. They're scared. They're nervous. They're unhappy, largely because of all the vocal protests calling for, basically, the destruction of Israel."
Feigelson points to a phrase that is frequently being chanted at the pro-Palestinian rallies: "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."
"When you hear 'from the river to the sea,' we're talking about the Mediterranean to the River Jordan," he said. "And that basically encompasses the entire territory of Israel. So, they're calling for the destruction of Israel and, to an extent, the destruction of the Jewish people. So, how would you feel?"
There are plenty of feelings on both sides, which means there isn't much room for compromise. At the protest, Ted Franklin thought it starts with an end to bloodshed and he didn't think Israeli tanks rolling into Gaza will make that happen any time soon.
"I think it will be a catastrophe and a catastrophe for Israel as well as the Palestinians," he said. "There's no easy way out. The true solution is a political solution as elusive as that may be."
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