An Israeli soldier sits on top of his tank in the northern Gaza Strip.
An Israeli soldier sits on top of his tank in the northern Gaza Strip.

REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

As Israeli troops complete their first full day on the ground in the Gaza Strip, Israelis and Palestinians are seeing dramatically different outcomes.

For Israel's military, the ground operation has been a success thus far. The main goal of the operation is to destroy a series of tunnels that extend from Gaza into Israeli territory. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Force, said Israeli soldiers had destroyed over 20 such "access points" so far. The number of rockets launched from Gaza into Israel declined on Friday.

"We are happy with the progress," Lerner told PRI's The World. "We feel that is in line with our expectations ... Ultimately what we want to do is sever the connection between [Hamas] and Israel and distance the terrorist activities as far as possible from our community."

For residents in Gaza, the Israeli incursion simply meant an intensified version of the violence of the last few days, during which the Israeli military kept up intense gunfire and airstrikes.

Sara Hussein, a reporter for the AFP wire service who's currently in Gaza, said she did see some people going about their daily lives — going to Friday prayer and shopping at the market. But the Israeli invasion has mostly created "ghost town scenes" in some parts of Gaza. The atmosphere, Hussein said, was tense.

"We've seen several people killed today in that ongoing fire in different areas," she said. "People are nervous. It’s very difficult for them to know where they should go and where they can be safe. There are no bomb shelters in Gaza. People don’t know how they should protect themselves and their families."

Hussein has reported from Gaza during previous wars. She said that Thursday's invasion “is different and the same.” One key difference is the apparent lack of movement towards a truce. During the previous Israeli campaign in Gaza in late 2012, pressure began building for a ceasefire almost immediately.

“The stop and start nature of discussions here about a truce is much more pessimistic than the mobilization that I remember in 2012,” she said. “The feeling here is that this is not something that’s going to end very quickly."

One Gaza resident has similar feelings about what is taking place there. "I see my city burning and dying in front of my eyes and I can’t do anything,” said blogger Nalan Sarraj, who lives in Gaza City. When she looks out her window, she said, she simply sees “a city who is fighting death as much as possible."

And how will it all end? She says she has no idea.

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