On the other hand, Israel aggravated the situation by continuing the economic siege, something Hamas thought the cease fire would end. Severely limiting the numbers of goods to cross into Gaza has placed the citizens there in a desperate situation, with many suffering from malnutrition. While this in no way justifies indiscriminately firing rockets into Israeli towns like Sderot, there's no question that Israel has been engaged in collective punishment, a human rights violation. One of the siege's chief purposes, to cause a rift between the citizens of Gaza and Hamas, will not work. It only causes the population to rally around their government. In addition, as the U.S. saw in Iraq, sanctions hurt average citizens, not the rulers.
While Israel has the right–indeed, the obligation–to protect its citizens, it has been known to adopt a sledgehammer approach coupled with grandiose ambitions. During the 1982 Lebanon war, one of Ariel Sharon's goals was to install a friendly government. During the 2006 Lebanon war, Israel sought to destroy Hezbollah. Neither goal was realized. In both cases, however, the extent of Israeli bombing obscured the original, reasonable aim of defending the borders. As of this writing, with nearly 300 killed, including young police cadets, and the Islamic University bombed, the charge of "disproportionate force" is being heard once again.
Israel now considers all of Hamas a target. If Hamas is destroyed, what is to take its place? Complete chaos? A re-occupation of the area? The installation of Hamas' rival Fatah, which now rules the West Bank (an impossible option, since Fatah would be accused of collusion). What are the limits to Israel's actions and what are its goals? In this regard, I agree with a recent editorial in the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz:
...working toward long-term goals that would completely change the landscape in the region, like toppling Hamas from power in Gaza, is liable to turn out to be a wild fantasy. It would be best to make do with immediate goals and with measured, calculated accomplishments that could restore quiet, particularly the cease-fire Israel enjoyed for five months, which enabled Gaza residents to lead reasonable lives.
...It would behoove both sides to enlist every possible mediator - from Egypt to Qatar to the United States and Europe - to implement those terms. One may assume that the military message Israel sent was fully understood. It would be best not to turn it into a disaster that would preclude a future agreement.
The first step toward implementing terms of agreement is a cessation of hostilities. An extended military operation and mounting casualties could render another cease fire out of reach.