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Palestinians extinguish a fire after Israeli air strikes targeted an electricity generator that fed the house of Hamas's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City.

STRINGER/REUTERS

Israel is right to be responding swiftly and forcefully to bombardment from Gaza. For months, the leaders of Hamas have been building up a more powerful arsenal with which to assault their neighbours. For years, factions in Gaza had sent rockets into Israel that for the most part did no great harm – a nuisance that was occasionally dangerous to Israeli civilians, but rarely inficted serious injury.

Recently, however, Hamas has gained more confidence and has become more ambitious in its purchasing of missiles. As an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, it feels encouraged by that movement's increasing ascendancy in Egypt and other countries of the region. By sending many more, and more lethal, rockets into Israel, it cannot do any good for the inhabitants of Gaza whom they rule, or for other Palestinians. Their attacks are merely vindictive and narcissistic, but they are a serious threat to the people of Israel.

The Egyptian government, which relies on American money, is unlikely to give any practical help to Hamas, but these events put it in a difficult and ambiguous position, which could lead to a substantial degradation of the politics of the Middle East.

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Israel has so far wisely refrained from a ground offensive – let alone to a reoccupation – though it has moved troops toward its border with the Gaza Strip, and has called up reservists, quite properly to provide for contingencies. The Israeli Defence Force appears to be well informed on the locations of Hamas's armaments, and can do most of what it needs to do by way of aerial bombardment.

In particular, the death of Hamas's military commander, Ahmed Jaabari, in an Israeli airstrike, is nothing to regret.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for all his militancy of attitude, has never been before in charge during a war or a near-war such as the present one. But he has not advanced Israel's relationship with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, during his time in office. Peacetime has in this respect been wasted. It remains to be seen how he will fare in war if the present conflict continues.

Hamas's provocations are particularly unfortunate when Iran's nuclear ambitions have not yet been restrained, and while there is no end in sight to the intractable civil war in Syria.

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