THERE is an air of grim inevitability about the latest violence engulfing Gaza.

"A plague on both your houses" may seem like an understandable response. However, in the interests of finding a solution, that kind of thinking has to be ignored. The Israelis and Palestinians are in a state of almost constant conflict and both claim to be protecting their own civilian population, but all the evidence points to a mindless intensification in violence which only serves to make matters worse.

It is surely an outrage to humanity that there can be incidents in which five Palestinian children lose their lives as Israeli forces bombard Gaza, or the citizens of Tel Aviv are put in fear of their lives by the ability of Hamas to threaten them indiscriminately with new long-range missiles.

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Unfortunately, as always happens in this troubled part of the world, violence begets violence and a new cycle seems to have been instituted last week when Israeli forces killed Hamas's military leader, Ahmed Jabari, in an air strike in Gaza. While this can be described as a legitimate act of Israeli self-defence, it is difficult to avoid the impression that it was an extra-judicial killing triggered in advance of the forthcoming Israeli elections as a move to demonstrate a hard line.

At this crucial juncture, and with the crisis escalating, there needs to be some clear thinking. While the Hamas attacks are to be deplored, there is an overwhelming case for Israel, as a major power, to show some restraint, and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is surely right when he argues that further bloodshed will solve nothing and only cause further unnecessary deaths.