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Israelis living with rocket threat support Gaza military operation
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All major gatherings have been canceled, and the streets remain empty, while families hide away in their bomb shelters.

However, for people of the Qassam-battered town of Sderot, this is not a new reality. Over the past eight years, more than 10,000 rockets have landed in this town alone.

"This is the situation we have lived with for eight years," Zohar Levi, 45, said Thursday while watching the news in a pizza bar.

It is news about Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's trip to France, where Livni said that Israel could not accept France's cease-fire initiative in Gaza Strip as it would "enable Hamas to gain legitimacy."

"Hamas's agenda of hatred cannot be legitimized by the international community," Livni told reporters at a Paris press conference, following the meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozi. She said Israel had right to defend itself and its citizens, and for this reason had embarked on the military operation in Gaza. Any other country would do the same, she added.

With the death toll from the heavy aerial bombardment in Gaza rising to 400, Israel faces strong international pressure to agree to a ceasefire, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday he was not interested in a "long war."

Earlier, Hamas announced that it would be willing to consider the European Union's proposed ceasefire in Gaza "under certain conditions".

However, the ruling organization continued to fire rockets and mortar shells on Israel's south throughout Thursday.

While politicians continued their dialogue and campaigns, Israeli and Gaza residents continued to suffer. Recent survey carried out by local Israeli newspapers said that a decisive majority supported continuing the army's air campaign against Hamas targets in Gaza Strip without endangering the lives of Israel Defense Force soldiers in a ground offensive.

Along Sderot's main street, only a few shops, including a grocery store and a pizza bar, stay open. There are men dressed warmly, sitting on plastic chairs and staring up at the TV as news unfolds the day's events in southern Israel.

Walking into a deserted pizza bar, Elraz, the owner, is slaving over a hot oven cooking pizza after pizza. Ironically, Elraz says his business is one of a handful that is thriving in the town.

"People are staying home in their shelters and don't want to go outside, so we are getting a lot of delivery calls for pizzas," he said, adding that he has even made a profit after his new invention of a rocket-shaped pizza has helped to attract customers.

When asked if he wishes the land forces to enter Gaza, he said, "we are waiting for it here in Sderot -- it is the only way to have lasting peace."

"Everyone in Sderot will agree with me," he added confidently.

Just five days into the war, Israeli casualties have been minimal and there is an overall sense that the operation is a military success. However, most of the residents of Sderot are just tired of the rockets, saying they are "fed up" and refuse to talk about the "Cast Lead Operation".

Down the nearly empty road, Dudu, a factory worker pops into a florist after work to pick up some flowers. While choosing a large bouquet of flowers from the shelf, he said he would agree with Israel's decision to enter Gaza, and said he wanted the rocket attacks to end in order "to give my family a normal life."

"Although there is a war outside, more importantly, it is my wife's birthday today and I want to surprise her with a beautiful bunch of flowers," he said with a smile on his face.

It is absolutely not the only love story in the war. In an email to Xinhua Thursday, Vittorio Arrigoni, a volunteer of International Solidarity Movement working in Gaza, provided another one in Gaza's Al Shifa hospital.

"After hours of searching, a Palestinian woman recognized her husband from his amputated hand. All that's left of her husband, and the wedding band on her finger from the eternal love they had sworn one another," he wrote.

"We fear the much dreaded ground raid, but the Israeli tanks are posted all along the strip's border, and their corpse-hungry creaks will apparently form a funeral march," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency January 2, 2009)

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