The plot against Gaza
Israel has justified its assault on Gaza as entirely defensive, intended only to stop Hamas firing rockets on Israel's southern communities. Although that line has been repeated unwaveringly by officials since Israel launched its attack on 27 December, it bears no basis to reality. Rather, this is a war against the Palestinians of Gaza, and less directly those in the West Bank, designed primarily to crush their political rights and their hopes of statehood.
The most glaring evidence contradicting the Israeli casus belli is the six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that preceded the invasion. True, Hamas began firing its rockets as soon as the truce came to an end on 19 December, but Israel had offered plenty of provocation. Not least it broke the ceasefire by staging a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas members. Even more significantly, it maintained and tightened a blockade during the ceasefire period that was starving Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants of food, medicine and fuel. Hamas had expected the blockade lifted in return for an end to the rockets.
A few days before Israel's attack on Gaza, Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's domestic security service, the Shin Bet, noted Hamas' commitment to the ceasefire and its motives in restarting the rocket fire. "Make no mistake, Hamas is interested in maintaining the truce," he told the cabinet. "It seeks to improve its conditions -- a removal of the blockade, receiving a commitment from Israel that it won't attack and extending the lull to the Judea and Samaria area [the West Bank]." In other words, had Israel wanted calm, it could have avoided invading Gaza simply by renegotiating the truce on more reasonable terms.
Israel, however, had little interest in avoiding a confrontation with Hamas, as events since the Islamic group's takeover of Gaza in early 2006 show.