Appalling 'mistake': The U.S. must condemn attacks on civilians

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The muffled response of the United States to what many Palestinians are calling an Israeli massacre in the Gaza Strip is shameful. What happened early in the morning on Nov. 8 to an entire family when a barrage of Israeli artillery tore through their home is appalling.

But the United States could not bring itself to forcefully decry the bombing of a crowded residential neighborhood that killed at least 18 members of an extended family, including seven children ranging in age from 12 months to 15 years.

The Israeli army claimed the shelling of a residential compound in Beit Hanoun was a "mistake" and the loss of life regrettable. Israeli leaders said the army was targeting Hamas partisans who use the densely populated area as a staging ground to fire makeshift missiles at the Jewish state.

While the rudimentary rocket attacks haven't killed any Israelis in the past 15 months, they do hang as a persistent threat over border towns. So Israel has fired thousands of shells into the town in north Gaza, considered fair game for Palestinian militants and their launching pads.

But the mounting Palestinian civilian toll from indiscriminate Israeli artillery and tank fire has brought understandable condemnation from governments worldwide. Every Israeli bombing that kills Palestinians who weren't involved in any fighting inspires new generations of militants dedicated to avenging such incidents.

Hamas said it would end its self-imposed cease-fire with Israel and respond to the bombing with "deeds, not words." It was not long ago grieving Gazans screamed for revenge after another Israeli shelling killed eight Palestinians picnicking on a Gaza Strip beach. Now the latest "mistaken" artillery strike threatens to provoke a new wave of violence in the region.

As usual, Washington's answer to the recent Palestinian tragedy is to call for restraint on all sides while simultaneously scuttling any international effort to denounce the Israeli offensive. It is a pathetic way to work for peace.



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