The most recent clash in the endless circus in Gaza diminishes hope for a bloodless future in the region. After a six-month cease-fire treaty expired in late December, both sides have taken up arms once again.

Palestine’s ruling party, Hamas, has wanted Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip since the Israeli withdrawal in 2005. The Islamist group argued that the blockade pushed Gaza into economic turmoil. The United Nations estimates that more than three-quarters of the population depends on humanitarian aid.

Israel refused to lift the blockade, arguing that Hamas would transport weapons to Gaza in order to later fire into Israel. The decision infuriated Palestinian leadership and Hamas resumed firing rockets and mortars into Israel. To end the rocket fire, the Israeli Air Force struck military bases, training camps and headquarters. On Jan. 3, Israel launched a ground invasion with troops and tanks. At this writing, the violence has taken over 900 lives, most of which are Palestinian.

Voices in international media have decried both the disproportionality of the death tolls and Hamas’ role in reigniting the violence. In this latest episode in the Holy Land’s bloody history, both sides are to blame.

Hamas has brought a considerable amount of suffering upon its own people. Did Palestinian leadership not expect Israel to respond to renewed attacks? Hamas only further endangered homes and citizens by deciding to resume hostilities.

Some responsibility for the high Palestinian death toll lies with Hamas. Its use of homes, mosques and schools to store its weapons caches have contributed to the high number of women and children killed. When these caches become Israeli targets, is it any surprise who dies?

On the other hand, Israel did not do nearly enough to prevent this crisis from happening. The Gaza blockade has helped to engender resentment and to economically cripple the region – there were other options. For example, bipartisan negotiations might have solved the problem. Gaza needs food, water, medicine, power and building supplies. It does not need rockets. A well-run, sensible blockade ought to be able to achieve that outcome.

That itself poses a problem. It’s difficult to weed out “good” imports from “bad” ones, just as in America it’s difficult to block the importation of illicit drugs. But difficulty should not obstruct honest reform. After all, if Hamas really seeks peace – a claim that Israel reasonably questions – opening the border will stop the rocket firings. If it does not, then Israel has its ideological ammunition to make war.

The cease-fire could have facilitated a lasting peace. Hamas rocket fire into Israel from Gaza dropped significantly during the ceasefire. Israel should have used that time to work with Hamas to restructure the blockade.

Some hope for peace remains. Last Thursday’s U.N. Security Council resolution called for an immediate cease-fire. The United States refrained from voting and the resolution has been effectively ignored, but the gesture demonstrates the international community’s commitment to halting the bloodshed. A Franco-Egyptian panel also looks fruitful, as Israel has accepted the beginnings of a truce agreement. Hamas’ leadership must now step up to the plate and do likewise.

That won’t be easy. Hamas denies Israel’s legitimacy and tends toward violent radicalism. It would do well by the Palestinians – the people Hamas claims to represent – to drop both habits. They have proven not merely unproductive, but counterproductive.

For the time being, the vicious circle spirals on. Israel will not end the blockade for fear of Palestinian rocket fire. Hamas won’t end the rocket fire until Israel lifts the blockade. Blame both sides for refusing to break the cycle.

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