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Editorial: Murderous acts spark latest violence

We are once again witnessing how quickly tensions and violence can escalate between Israel and the Palestinians.

As usual, a flare-up begins with murderous acts and the desire for parties on both sides to use them as fuel for further deadly retaliation.

This time it began with the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers while they were hitchhiking home from their religious school in the West Bank and the discovery of their bodies a couple of weeks later that provided the initial spark.

This happened against the background of almost continuous bombardment of Israeli border towns by rockets and mortars — an occurrence so routine that it almost never makes the news wires.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others in Israel charged that Hamas, the militant anti-Israel organization that shares governing authority with the Palestinian Authority, was responsible, launched airstrikes on suspected Hamas gathering sites, and sent the army into the West Bank to find the suspects. Hamas, which says it had no direct connection with the teens’ disappearance, nevertheless cheered the news of the kidnappings and then the murders of the three.

Then a Palestinian teen was seized and apparently burned alive in what has been described as a revenge killing that was horrible enough that many Israelis who take a tough stance with Palestinians were shocked. That included Netanyahu, who, it has been reported, telephoned the father of the dead teen and promised that those responsible would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Several Israelis were arrested.

As Israel’s outgoing president, Shimon Peres, and his successor, Reuven Rivlin,wrote in a joint editorial about this crime, “The bloodshed will stop only when we all understand that it is not our unhappy fate to live together, but rather our destiny to do so.”

But these Israeli and Palestinian voices of calm and reason are unfortunately not the only voices being heard.

They were competing with the din raised by a new barrage of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel. The Israeli military said Tuesday that 100 rockets had been fired into the country during a 24-hour period. Israel has responded by launching what was called targeted airstrikes at Hamas targets in Gaza.

“We are preparing for a battle against Hamas which will not end within a few days,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement. “We will not tolerate missiles being fired at Israeli towns and we are prepared to extend the operations with all means at our disposal in order to keep hitting Hamas.”

This downward spiral has been seen before and isn’t the answer. Calm and reason must prevail, even if powerful forces desire otherwise.

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