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An eye for an eye for an eye

Hamas has suffered severe blows in this attack, but those who have really been hardest hit are the innocent civilians of Gaza for whom violence has become a way of life.

india Updated: Dec 29, 2008 22:48 IST

It is a time for hope and renewal but as the year draws to a close, people in Gaza and Israel are once again caught up in an inexorable cycle of violence. But, even by Israel’s standards of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, the attack, using 60 warplanes on the impoverished Gaza Strip, that has killed 300 people is excessive. The offensive comes after sustained attacks by the Islamist movement, Hamas, which controls Gaza and which has vowed to crush Israel. Such has been the ferocity of Israel’s response that the extreme anger in the Arab world has extended even to the two countries that have peace treaties with the Jewish state, Eygpt and Jordan.

As Israel prepares for a land offensive, indirect talks with Syria are off. The no-holds-barred attack has killed several children and reduced many Gaza buildings. including schools and a university, to rubble. Israel does not seem to have explored any diplomatic options at all. It could have, for example, pushed the Egyptians and Jordanians to put pressure on Hamas to back off. It could have sought the good offices of Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas to try and initiate an indirect dialogue.

Hamas has suffered severe blows in this attack, but those who have really been hardest hit are the innocent civilians of Gaza for whom violence has become a way of life. The chances of normalcy returning soon are remote given that the only country that could rein Israel in, namely the US, is in transition mode. The reaction from the outgoing Bush administration has not been encouraging. It has squarely blamed what it calls `Hamas thugs’ for the crisis. And there is some truth in this. Mr. Abbas himself has referred to the fact that Hamas could have prevented the massacre had it shown more restraint. But, Israel does not seem to distinguish between Hamas and the millions of Palestinians who favour a two-state solution and yearn for peace. By its extreme strong-arm tactics, it is pushing more moderate Palestinians into the arms of outfits like the Hamas. While the Obama administration has made it clear that it will support its ally Israel, there are hopes that it will take a more balanced view of the situation. A return to the negotiating table is the only way out. But at present, no one seems to be in a mood to listen.