These perfect abattoirs.
How many ways are there to say exactly the same thing differently? For those whom (rightly) argue that history doesn't repeat, it's difficult to explain why it is Israel and Hamas seem stuck in a perpetual loop of action and reaction, neither side moving forward, neither falling behind, while the poor bastards stuck in the middle have to suffer the consequences over and over again.
If there is a slight difference this time round, it's that Hamas can't really claim it was Israel that started it. The kidnap and murder of Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel, and Eyal Yifrah may not have been carried out by Hamas members, or with the knowledge of the leadership, but nor have they so much as condemned the heinous crime. Anyone mentioning one of the teenagers was old enough to serve in the IDF, as all Israelis are required to, or that they were settlers (or rather the children of settlers) is making abominable excuses. They had as much right to life as Muhammad Abu Khudair did, the 17-year-old abducted and set alight in an apparent act of vengeance.
As usual, the response of Hamas has played straight into Israel's hands. If they had wanted they could have presented Israel's actions in the immediate aftermath of the abduction as what they were: cynical long planned manoeuvres designed to undermine the recently announced unity government. Arresting hundreds of Hamas members wasn't about finding the boys, not least as we now know the Israelis must have realised it was unlikely they were alive, but about getting a reaction. Naturally, the rockets from Gaza once again began to fly. Coupled with the understandable anger on the Palestinian street at the murder of Abu Khadir, especially when Israeli politicians used irresponsibly inciteful language, the events of the past few days have been all too familiar.
Not that there is an equivalence between the missiles fired into Israel and those once again devastating the Gaza strip. Even the more advanced Katyushas obtained/manufactured by Hamas and the other militant groups kill only extremely rarely; their main purpose is to cause fear, to let Israelis know there will be no peace without a fair settlement that also includes them. The Israeli missiles by contrast, provided often by American military aid, only extremely rarely fail to kill. They are also fired without compunction for the innocents caught up with those who might be militant members. The deaths of six others is a price deemed worth it for removing a Hamas terrorist, no matter how low down the pecking order, from this plane of existence.
It's also of course about collective punishment. It doesn't matter the whole of Gaza may as well be a free fire zone, or there's nowhere the 1.7 million civilians can escape to, the tunnels into Egypt that once provided a lifeline mostly shut down by new president Sisi, the real victims are those in southern Israel. No nation could put up with such rocket fire, say the Israelis and Americans as one, except say Syria, where the "moderates" (aka Islamists far more radical than Hamas) we support mortar Damascus every day. The Palestinians simply don't have the same right to defend themselves.
This supposedly was a battle neither side wanted, only for them to discover there wasn't a way around it. Bombing Gaza never turns out badly for whichever prime minister orders it. Hamas by contrast seems to believe the only way to get back its previous levels of support is by standing up to the onslaught, apparently unconcerned by how many civilians die in the process, thinking each death will only create more resistance. Such grim calculus, such cynicism on both sides.
At this point, it's always worth remembering the Quartet's special envoy is a certain Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.
Jesus fucking wept.