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 Wednesday morning to an entire family when a barrage of Israeli artillery tore through their home is appalling.
But the U.S. could not bring itself to forcefully decry the Israeli 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.
As usual, the Israeli Defense Army claimed the shelling of a residential compound in Beit Hanoun was a "mistake" and the loss of life was 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 Israeli 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 have brought understandable condemnation from governments worldwide.
And every Israeli bombing that kills Palestinians who weren't remotely involved in fighting Israel inspires new generations of militants dedicated to avenging Israeli aggressions. Attending a mass funeral for the victims, mostly women and children killed in the Beit Hanoun attack, relatives screamed vows to retaliate against Israel.
Hamas, sworn to wipe Israel off the map, said it would end its self-imposed cease-fire with Israel and respond to the blitz on Beit Hanoun with "deeds, not words." The far-reaching damage of Israel's military campaign in Gaza has yet to be realized.
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 bloodbath from artillery Israel says was mistakenly fired threatens to provoke a new wave of violence in the region.
As usual Washington's answer to the recent Palestinian tragedy blamed on Israel is to call for restraint on all sides while simultaneously scuttling any international effort to denounce the Israeli offensive. It is a dangerous juggling act.