The heads of the defense establishment are often criticized for not being able to hold themselves back. When they have an opportunity to arrest or assassinate a senior wanted Palestinian, they hasten to take it - even if the political circumstances are not right.

The Hamas leaders found themselves in a similar situation in the Gaza Strip yesterday. Hamas, support for which has been growing among the Palestinian public, has gained enough power to enable it to resist the pressures to sign a new cease-fire agreement.

Clearly, an attack aimed at the source of income for thousands of Palestinians - the Erez crossing industrial zone - might jeopardize the perpetrators' popularity and drive Israel back to the assassinations policy. But Hamas simply could not resist the temptation.

The plan was too good to leave in the drawer - sending a woman, apparently with an acting ability, to outfox Israeli security and blow herself up inside the fortified compound.

Reem Riashi joined the ranks of six Palestinian female suicide bombers. Twenty-four other Palestinian women who were about to become suicide bombers and 16 women who assisted suicide bombers on their way to attacks are currently imprisoned in Israel.

Riashi's plan was based on detailed intelligence that laborers passing daily through the crossing had collected for her. She aimed for the weak spot, taking advantage of the high friction between the Israeli security forces and the Palestinians, exacerbated by the security forces' embarrassment when it comes to dealing with Arab women. It is doubtful whether the performance the suicide bomber gave at the terminal would have elicited such trust had she been a man.

The women's examination room is located inside the building, after the metal detector device, to enable women to undergo the check in privacy. This allowed Riashi to blow herself up well inside the building, causing maximum damage.

The new terminal, which will be built on the ruins of the old one, will probably be designed differently to avoid a similar attack. But even when Israel learns lessons from its mistakes, it appears the terrorists learn faster.

While Sheikh Ahmad Yassin spoke of "a quality attack," the defense establishment tried to ascertain if he had known of it in advance. It is difficult to believe the operation went through without the knowledge of Yassin or his men.

Colonel Shalom Harari says the Palestinians consider the industrial zone as occupied territory and therefore attacking it is not a deviation from the policy of concentrating on attacks within the territories.

The presence of thousands of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis at the terminal provides numerous opportunities for attacks. The question is whether Israel should stop letting thousands of laborers through and risk more casualties. Last night, at least, the answer was no. Thousands of workers, the breadwinners for hundreds of thousands of residents in the Gaza Strip, will enter Israel for work today. Their work constitutes "letting off steam," without which the number of attacks will increase.