As the death toll in Israel Defense Forces raids against militants firing rockets from Gaza climbed to more than 50 yesterday, Palestinian Information Minister Riyad al-Maliki responded by saying, "Hamas gave Israel an excuse to start a war in Gaza."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also responded along these lines, saying that the "operation in Gaza is not just a reaction to the rocket barrage." Both comments can be interpreted as Palestinian backing for the Israel Defense Forces ground incursion into the Strip.

Moreover, the very mild Egyptian reaction and the conspicuous absence of a convicting Arab voice also indicate that the Arab world perceives the IDF raid to be first and foremost a war against Hamas, not the "real Holocaust" of the Palestinian people - as Khaled Meshal claimed yesterday. The fact that Al Jazeera devoted a whole episode of a popular debate show to the question "Why are the Palestinians keeping silent about the situation in Gaza" also backs this point.

Hamas will therefore have to concentrate its efforts not only on the Israeli offensive and gaining the support of the Arab countries, but mainly on shattering the Israeli definition of this war - from one directed against a terrorist organization to a full-fledged war on the entire Palestinian people.

Hamas succeeded in doing this once in late January, when its people breached the Gaza-Egypt border and the media portrayed Hamas as the Palestinians' savior from the Israeli siege.