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Saturday, June 10, 2006 

What's more important than 7 innocents killed in Gaza and Hamas responding stupidly? Take a wild guess.

Obsolete did cheer on England earlier in the day, even if it was a tedious game and a tepid performance at best. Still, it's good to know that Sky thinks that side issues to the World Cup are more important than the latest breakdown of humanity in the Gaza and West Bank.

A lot of people have been waiting for Sky News to slowly but surely turn into its American sister, Fox News, so as to avoid the tougher rules in Britain over political impartiality. Seemingly rather than do that, it looks to be turning itself into a TV version of the Sun.

Sky illustrates its story on the weather for today's big match by providing two well-endowed gorgeous pouting lovelies wearing their bikinis. Saucy! Not only that though, we have another World Cup story, which is, err, the launching of football bras. Then we have the sensitively placed middle story, highlighted, which is that sexual harassment is still a problem. No further comment necessary.

Anyway, getting back to the situation in Israel and Gaza. It's hard to know what is more pointless; the futility of the various Islamic and secular groupings in the Strip which think that the launching of their Qassam rockets, aka home made mortars, achieves anything other than the occasionally damaged building or slightly injured person, or the Israeli response, which is the launching of much more destructive and deadly shells, which yesterday killed 7 innocent bystanders and injured dozens more who were picnicking on the muslim day of rest on the beautiful Gaza beach. The horror of the aftermath, which even the BBC vividly showed last night, of a young girl, bloody and running, only to discover a relative or someone she knew, laying dead on the sand. Her harrowing screams were heartbreaking. Another shot, this one only shown on Newsnight, most likely as it was too graphic for the 10 O'Clock News, showed a medic carrying a little girl who had the top half of her head blown off. As he hurried to get her body in the ambulance, some of the remaining brains in her head fell out.

Hamas's predictable response has been to call off their long held ceasefire. They haven't wasted any time; they apparently launched some of their own rockets into Israel, although one according to the BBC landed in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Their anger had already been raised by the assassination of Jamal Abu Samhadana, the head of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, who was killed by the usual Israeli method of hellfire missile.

The situation in the West Bank and Gaza is beyond simply asking for both sides to halt their respective attacks. The response of Israel, it has to be said, has been a lot more cautious and apologetic than it has been when such incidents have occurred in the past. They have called a halt to the shelling for the moment; something they should consider on a permanent basis. Likewise, the stupidity and pointless launching of the home made mortars from Gaza, not just in response to Israeli shelling and attacks, but also to the continuing economic disaster which is now engulfing the territories thanks to the boycott of the Hamas' government, and the near constant closure of the border into both through which the Gazan farmers can export their produce, should be halted. Sadly, the reaction of Hamas and even Mahmoud Abbas, who was rightly outraged, suggests that no such concession will be forthcoming. And really, why should it? The people of Gaza and the West Bank made their democratic decision, only for it to be rejected and for them to be punished for making the "wrong" choice. The constant shelling in response to the pathetic mortars is out all of proportion, and does amount to collective punishment. The withdrawal from Gaza of the Jewish settlers has only resulted in the Strip becoming even more of a prison, and in this case one in which hardly any of the prisoners are even getting paid for the work they are doing.

All we can hope for is that Abu Mazen's plan to hold a referendum on the recognition of Israel and the prisoner plan for peace will embarrass Hamas into doing what its leaders have said informally for years; that they will leave it to their children to decide what to do if the Palestinians finally get their viable state. The other option may well be the even more radical Islamic Jihad; something that no one wants to happen. The Israeli government should respond by giving both Hamas and Abbas breathing space for the referendum to take place. Any attempt to redraw the borders around the "security" wall, while removing a minority of settlers from the West Bank will not lead to peace. The viable two state solution is the only solution.

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