First things first. According to the New York Times’s Isabel Kershner and others, the latest round of violence between Israel and the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization in Gaza was “set off by Israel’s assassination of a senior Islamic Jihad commander on Tuesday.” This is not strictly true.

That senior Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, was behind a series of rocket attacks on the Israeli city of Sderot less than two weeks ago. That, and other recent attacks against Israel, is what got him killed; the confrontation, therefore, predates his assassination. It’s just that the earlier rocket attacks didn’t make much news outside of Israel.

But since Tuesday morning, the Iranian supported Islamic Jihad has fired 350 rockets from Gaza into Israel, some reaching as far as Tel Aviv. And Israel has been pounding Islamic Jihad targets inside Gaza. The casualty numbers change quickly, but last I saw, Gaza’s Health Ministry claimed that 24 Palestinians have been killed, and 69 others have been wounded—20 of the 24 were Islamic Jihad fighters. In Israel, 48 people were wounded, and none killed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been very clear about not wanting to escalate the current conflict. But he’s been equally clear that Israel will not stop hitting enemy targets so long as rockets rain down on Israel. “They have one choice,” he said of Islamic Jihad, “to stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows.”

During this week’s conflict, Israel has not yet targeted Hamas, Gaza’s governing terrorist organization. But there’s now much speculation about what Hamas will do in response to the flare-up. Islamic Jihad has no governing control of Gaza, but, as the current violence demonstrates, it can easily draw the Strip into conflict. And it is Hamas’s failure to curb Islamic Jihad’s continued provocations against Israel that has led to the present crisis.

As Abu al-Ata ramped up his campaign against the Jewish state, Israel warned Hamas that it wasn’t going to take it forever. “Via publications in various media outlets; messages conveyed by Egyptian intelligence; and warnings via international mediators,” writes Avi Issacharoff at the Times of Israel, “Israel repeatedly urged Hamas to take action.” Hamas didn’t act. Israel did.

If Hamas doesn’t now work to get Islamic Jihad in line, the fighting could easily escalate. And, as we’ve seen in the past, Gaza will suffer far more than Israel in any prolonged exchange. But what’s different this time is that Gaza’s endlessly self-inflicted woes don’t inspire the same degree of international sympathy they once did, at least not where it counts.

Sunni Arab kingdoms are now more-or-less allied with Israel against Iran. They’re not interested in upsetting that relationship for the sake of a reckless terrorist group that’s backed by Iran. What’s more, Islamic Jihad’s attack on Sderot broke a commitment that the group made to Egyptian authorities in October about maintaining calm in Gaza. The broken pledge angered Egypt, which had even released some Islamic Jihad prisoners (reportedly with Israel’s consent) as a show of good faith in negotiations. Finally, in the United States, it’s highly unlikely that the Trump administration—a steadfast defender of Israel’s right to self-defense—will stoop to the kind of moral equivalence articulated by Obama administration officials whenever Israel targeted its enemies.

For now, Hamas has formally condemned the assassination of Abu al-Ata. If it stops there and makes Islamic Jihad hold back, then it may spare some Gazans further misery. But Hamas is not known either for restraint or responsive governance.

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