Is there a pattern to Israeli military action against Palestinians? Raids and shellings of the kind that have taken place in the past ten days often seem to coincide with major events elsewhere in the world, for instance the US elections, that are likely to attract most of the international media's attention. Last week's incursion into Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip turned the town into a closed military zone, leaving its 30'000 inhabitants without water and electricity and barring ambulances from its streets. When the Israeli forces retired, some 50 Palestinians, including women and children had been killed, and many men had been taken into detention. On Wednesday a dawn Israeli artillery barrage killed 18 people as they slept, 14 of them members of one family. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, expressed his regret for the latest civilian deaths but not for the earlier ones; the Army said that there had been a problem with the artillery's "pinpointing device".
Israel will say that all this activity is related to the firing of rockets from the area into Israeli territory that has been going on intermittently for over a year since it withdrew from Gaza. But while not one Israeli has been killed by these home-made rockets many innocent Palestinians have been killed in Israel's actions. Cannot the Israeli government understand that its heavy-handed and isproportionate reprisals are ineffective and certain to stiffen Palestinian resistance in the long term?

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