Interior ministry buildings were targeted in the raid [AFP]

Speaking to Al Jazeera, commentators and political figures share their thoughts on the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.

Osama Hamdan, Hamas representative in Lebanon

 
"I believe what happened today is a continuity of the Israeli collective crime against the Palestinians.

"What happened in the last three years, the Palestinians were suffering under the siege.

"The Israelis expected that the people will react against the resistance and against Hamas which didn't happen in the past three years. That means they have to start very tough actions against Hamas.

"They attack 32 positions in Gaza, we expect the casualties will ... reach 200 killings.

"There is a clear reaction of the Palestinians in Gaza. They are calling for revenge. They are asking for the Palestinian resistance to react against the occupation.

"I believe Israel is not learning the lesson. They don't know that this kind of aggressive attack against the Palestinians creates a new cycle of violence inside Palestine. It will not defeat the Palestinian resistance.

"We are talking about six decades of occupation and, until now, the Palestinian people are resisting. What has happened today in Gaza will not stop the resistance, will not defeat the Palestinian people. They will find themselves under a reaction from the resistance.

"The peace process has completely failed, so we have to talk about a new process in the region which is supposed to start from the restoring of Palestinian rights and the commitment towards those rights.

"No one will accept now any talk about a peace process, because everyone knows that the Palestinian people are fed up with 17 years of negotiation without any result.

"The second thing which I believe is happening every morning is that Palestinians believe that there is no solution unless there is a resistance."

Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought

"If you remember what Tzipi Livni said in Egypt after her meeting with President Hosni Mubarak and the foreign minister, she made a clear warning, not just about a tit-for-tat attitude, but about a change in Gaza.

"That's why I suspect that the operation is not only intended to be limited, but aimed at toppling the regime in Gaza altogether, otherwise why would Israel target the police force?

"They are not the ones firing missiles in Israel - the police force keeps the order in Gaza. This is an operation that will create disorder and I suspect that Egypt and Ramallah are colluding in this.

"Israel would never have carried out such a massive attack had it not been for a green light from people that matter - for instance the United States, some of the European powers and also from Egypt and Ramallah.

"Hamas did not say it wanted the truce to be renewed, it wanted to renegotiate new terms for the truce. Hamas wanted a truce with the Israelis that would bring about the end to the siege.

"Unfortunately, because the Egyptian broker was a dishonest broker, siding by Israel and siding by Ramallah, the truce did not bring the most important dividend which was ending the siege.

"So Hamas said 'if you want to renew the truce, let's end the siege and open the crossings.' The Egyptians would not agree to this. The Israelis would not agree to this.

"The Israelis were not interested in renewing a truce. Cairo was determined to give Hamas a fatal blow and they gave the green light to Israel I suspect."

Ephraim Sneh, former deputy Israeli defence minister

 
"The target of these operations are governing structures of Hamas in Gaza.

"The fact that Hamas, for a year and a half, controlled Gaza and turned it into an Iranian base at the gates of Israel is a situation that is inconceivable and unacceptable to us.

"The blame is on Hamas... When they took over, they didn't bring in investors, they brought in instructors from the Revolutionary Guards of Iran."

"Gaza will not be governed by Hamas in the long-run. It is inconceivable as far as we are concerned."

"There is no single country in the world that for several years accepts their citizens will be under permanent fire of rocket missiles."

Mustafa Barghouthi, former Palestinian information minister

 
"Israel is not targeting Hamas alone. Israel is targeting the whole Palestinian population, which has left 200 families with dead sons, husbands and fathers.

"Gaza is left today with nothing, no bread, no oil, electricity and medication even to treat the injured people.

"This criminal attack is directed at the will of the Palestinian people. It's an effort to break the Palestinian demand for freedom, independence and justice.

"Israel is responsible for this escalation. There was a ceasefire that everybody respected, including Hamas, and it was Israel that violated that ceasefire ... to prepare the ground for this bloodshed which Israeli politicians are using as their form of competition in the Israeli elections.

"This is a criminal act, unprecedented, unacceptable and Israel would not have dared to go this far if it were not for the silence of the international community at these inhuman crimes.

"It's impossible to equate Hamas with Israel. All the rockets Hamas have shot have not killed a single Israeli till today.

"During the same year of the so-called Annapolis peace process, Israel killed 546 Palestinians, including 76 children, more than half of them in the West Bank.

"The aggression is from one side. Israel has probably the fourth-largest military in the world, it is the fourth-largest military-exporter in the world, it has nuclear heads.

"Today, it used 60 sophisticated jet fighters in Gaza who have nothing to defend themselves with.

"Israel wants this escalation to break the backbone of the Palestinian people, but they won't break us."

Daniel Levy, director, Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation

 
"The US sees this through the prism of the war on terror, the war on evil. It sees Hamas civilian institutions, the police even, as somehow a legitimate target.

"Part of the problem here is that, in order to de-escalate in what has been a severe escalation, it would take an international intervention.

"It's a transitional time in Washington, so the question is: 'Will the Quartet translate these passive calls to end this, into an active intervention?'

"In Lebanon 2006, it took over 30 days for effective international intervention in what was a terribly ugly situation for Lebanese, and also for Israeli civilians, so one would hope this time there is action.

"It's important to understand that there is anger in Israel over what has happened in the last week over the rockets fired [from Gaza] into the country. One should also remember that there has been no fatalities until today.

"It's also an election season in Israel, so there's a lot of politics involved in what is going on. You will not hear most Israelis talk about decapitating Hamas.

"What you'll hear them talk about is creating a new reality which shifts the balance in Israel's deterrence and puts things on a better footing for Israel.

"Today's action was an active escalation that was disproportionate and is very unlikely to achieve that less dramatic aim.

"You have thousands of people affected. I don't see how this helps Israel, if it ultimately sees itself as a peaceful neighbour for the other people and countries of the Middle East.

"There is, however, a significant degree of unity in Israel around the justification of this attack.

"One thing you could ask is: 'Will there be unity on the Palestinian and Arab side, to actually say, we need Palestinian unity, we have to open the siege in Rafah, and to continue to talk with Israel under these circumstances.

"I wonder if we will see this kind of unity on the Arab side."

Source: Al Jazeera