(NBC News) -- Israel has called up army reserves, the standing army is poised for a ground invasion of Gaza, the air force and navy is attacking a list of specified targets, mostly Hamas fighters and weapons facilities. All is set for war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
The only sure thing, in this fog of war, is that nobody actually wants the war to take place -- not Israel, not Hamas.
It is a tightrope of the most dangerous kind.
Israel is resolved to end the Palestinian rocket attacks on its southern cities and communities -- 100 rockets fired in the five days before Israel's response and, at the time of writing, 150 since.
Israel's surprise attack Wednesday killed the man who has been on top of Israel's hit list for a decade, Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, accused of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis, as well as taking part in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was held hostage in Gaza for five years.
But just as significant, according to the Israeli military, its precision air attacks destroyed most of Hamas' stockpile of long-range Fajr rockets, whose 47-mile range threatens cities in central Israel, including the country's largest, Tel Aviv.
Not only would that end the threat, but it would end the threat of unplanned escalation. For if Tel Aviv suffered casualties from rocket attacks, the government would have no choice but to order the ground invasion of Gaza.
To illustrate the precipice on which the region now stands, Hamas said it had fired a 1.1 ton, Iranian-made Fajr rocket at Tel Aviv, but there was no reported impact in the Israeli city and the claim appeared to be unfounded.
A Fajr rocket would likely kill and injure many if it exploded in an unprepared city.
Israeli leaders indicate that a new offensive against Islamic militant commanders is underway. NBC's Martin Fletcher reports.
Israel's southern cities, subject for years to Palestinian rocket attacks, are well prepared. There was no school for children within 25 miles of Gaza, which is the range of the smaller Fajr 3 rocket, and residents were told to stay within a hundred yards of a bomb shelter as air sirens sounded every few minutes.
The three Israelis killed when a rocket hit their apartment building in Kiryat Malachi were standing by the window, looking out, instead of following instructions and staying in a safer place.
In their building, an older one, there was no bomb shelter. The advice, which they ignored, was to shelter in the more solidly constructed central stairwell.
Israeli war planes and navy ships continued to pound Hamas targets in Gaza Thursday, while warning that a wider operation could ensue. Hamas is returning fire -- while the United Nations has appealed for an end to the violence.
So far, that appeal is being ignored as each side here tries to gain the advantage.
But how they define that advantage could lead them over the edge into the wider war neither side wants.