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The regular pattern is for Israel to disregard whatever agreement is in place -- while Hamas observes it -- until a sharp increase in Israeli violence elicits a Hamas response, followed by even fiercer brutality. These escalations, which amount to shooting fish in a pond, are called "mowing the lawn" in Israeli parlance.

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For the last eight years, Israel and the U.S. had repeated opportunities to opt for a diplomatic solution in Gaza. Each time, they have chosen war, with devastating consequences for the families of Gaza.

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At U.N schools-cum-shelters for displaced Gazans, exhausted refugees speak of grief, anger -- and some -- appreciable pride for the resolve with which fighters led by Hamas respond violently to Israel's blockade against the movement of people and supplies in and out of the territory and the assault of the past month.

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