The Palestinian movement Hamas has vowed to avenge the deaths caused by five separate air strikes across Gaza on Monday.

This latest wave of Israeli violence has deepened the gloom over the prospects of progress in the Middle East "roadmap".

The peace plan, sponsored by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, known as the Quartet, now looks damaged beyond repair. 

"I appeal to the international community, the United Nations and the quartet to stop this military folly through which they (the Israelis) are looking to destroy our holy ground and our people," Arafat told a small group of journalists from his battered compound in Ram Allah.

President Yasir Arafat

The response in Israel to Monday's attacks has been mixed. Israeli newspapers on Tuesday warned that a wave of air strikes on Gaza was likely to prolong the conflict.

One journal said the brutal wave of attacks was prompted more by a sense of humiliation after the killing of three Israeli soldiers rather than logic.

War without questions

Eleven people were killed in five separate raids on Monday in Gaza while another 70 were wounded. Two of those killed were known members of the Hamas movement, but the vast majority of the victims were civilian.

Writing in the top-selling Yediot Aharonot, Alex Fishman said Israel had descended into fighting "a war without questions."

"We've deteriorated to a point in which we've stopped asking questions and that those who dare raise questions are immediately branded traitors," wrote Fishman.

Fishman warned that such attacks could be proven counter-productive and "actually intensify and broaden the circles of hatred for generations."

"It seems that our army doesn't know anything else. After three more soldiers were killed, the IDF continues to respond in the same way. Reaction begets reaction. We won't be able to resolve the dispute between ourselves and the Palestinians this way"

Moshe Bukai
Captain in Israeli army

"Is it conceivable that somebody on our side has decided that all of Palestinian society is the target? Because if so, then there truly are no limits and all we are left with war for the sake of war, with killing for the sake of killing."

Dissenting pilots

In a commentary entitled The Message: Israel has Gone Mad, Maariv columnist Amir Rappaport called the "blitz" a reaction to the "humiliating" ambush by Palestinian militants on an Israeli patrol on Sunday in which three soldiers were shot dead.

"Once again, it placed back on the agenda the issue that was raised recently by the dissenting pilots: the danger of hurting innocent people while carrying out attacks from the air in the heart of such densely populated centres as Gaza City," he added.

Captain Moshe Bukai, one of the signatories of a recent petition by helicopter pilots refusing to take part in "immoral" strikes in the Palestinian territories, also said that the latest raids would be counter-productive.

"It seems that our army doesn't know anything else," he told Maariv. "After three more soldiers were killed, the IDF continues to respond in the same way. Reaction begets reaction. We won't be able to resolve the dispute between ourselves and the Palestinians this way."