Israeli army chief General Gabi Ashkenazi told a gathering of top military officers and defense officials on Monday that the Israel Defense Forces stand ready to launch a major ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, if ordered to do so by the political leadership.
The announcement came just hours after Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as telling members of his Labor Party that he had ordered the army to make preparations to enter Gaza in force in response to ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel.
Barak insisted that Israel would not be deterred from defending its citizens by political considerations and enemy threats.
But angered residents of the battered southern town of Sderot said during protests held in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv that that is precisely what the government had allowed to happen.
Hundreds of Sderot residents made their way to Jerusalem on Sunday, less than a day after a Palestinian rocket seriously wounded two young Israeli brothers. Gaza-based Arab terrorists fired more than 130 rockets at Sderot and surrounding communities last week.
The protestors gathered outside Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office as the cabinet held its weekly meeting, demanding that the government either provide protection for its citizens or resign.
The demonstration lasted until Monday morning, when the protestors moved to Tel Aviv, blocking major highways in an effort to attract the attention of those Israelis that media surveys have revealed have little or no understanding of the conditions under which the residents of southern Israel live.
Meanwhile, another group of Israelis started a group on the popular online social network Facebook urging the residents of southern Israel to start fighting back on their own.
The webpage instructs average Israelis on how to find rocket-making tutorials online which can be used to construct the weapons needed to retaliate.