The latest fighting in Gaza is both depressingly familiar and also dangerously escalatory at a time of rising regional tensions. The tit-for-tat retaliation and escalation is hardly new: a rocket firing into Israel, an Israeli response, and on up the escalator. Israel's decision to directly target the senior Hamas military commander and other high officials raises the stakes, but Hamas can hardly be unaware that Israel is determined to respond to rocket attacks against its people. (Though whether the attacks that started all this were launched by Hamas or someone else is still disputed.) But when Israel strikees at targets in densely populated Gaza, civilian casualties are inevitable, and as on other occasions photos of dead or injured Palestinian children provokes anger throughout the Arab world. And in the present circumstances in the Middle East, that may be playing with fire.
With recent exchanges of fire on the Golan (though whether the firing from the Syrian side was from regime forces or rebels is unclear), the high tensions between Israel and Iran, and the dangerously anarchic situation in Sinai, any escalation on the Gaza front has the risk of spreading. Given President Morsi's background, he is under a lot of domestic pressure to stand up to Israel or at least sharply condemn events, and is said to be recalling Egypt's Ambassador from Tel Aviv. But Egypt and Israel are no longer the only actors in Sinai, so neither is completely in control of events there. The war next door in Gaza could easily engage the radical Jihadi elements in Sinai.
These are dangerous times, and the fact that Israel is in the midst of an election campaign may make it more difficult to de-escalate once decisions are made. Israel's right to defend itself is self-evident, but with so many smoldering powder kegs around, one can only hope it is very careful about what it aims at..