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Israeli exit from Gaza's maze

Restraint in defending itself from Hamas rockets will give moral strength to Israel.

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Israel long ago figured out how to protect itself from stone-throwing Palestinians and, to some degree, suicide bombers. It's made a formal peace with two Arab states and tacitly with others. Can it now stop Islamic rulers in nearby Gaza from raining small rockets on Israeli civilians in the name of terror?

The aerial attacks by Hamas have escalated in recent weeks, largely for two reasons:

•As a radical and anti-Israel Islamic group, Hamas needs to divert attention from its part in the harsh living conditions of the 1.5 million Palestinians who live on a sandy strip along the Mediterranean that's only seven miles wide and 25 miles long. Elected to power in 2006, Hamas seems to act more like a political arm of Iran than a government seeking the social and economic well-being of its people.

•Hamas is intent on stopping Israel from making a separate peace with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who barely rules the Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

It's won that last point so far. The peace talks were suspended Saturday by Mr. Abbas after Israel clumsily attacked a Hamas stronghold but not without also killing many civilians, perhaps children.

That Hamas's 35,000 fighters put civilians in harm's way on purpose is quite possible. Such a heinous act requires the world to have patience before condemning Israel in its limited attacks on the "governing infrastructure" of Hamas. But Israel must not feel compelled to fully reinvade Gaza (from which it withdrew in 2005).


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