Last week's bombing in Dimona was the first martyrdom operation committed by Hamas in more than five years. For some time, we have been warning the world that the relentless pressure on our people would eventually tell. In the last two months, more than a hundred people have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip, including many civilians, women and children.

Thirty people have died in the last month for lack of medical care brought on by the embargo. Only two weeks ago, we saw the appalling sight of over 40 women and children seriously injured when an Israeli F-16 dropped an enormous bomb in the middle of the densely populated Gaza City, a few meters from a wedding party. This kind of atrocity, piled onto the daily death toll, has finally tested the patience of Palestinians, and after lengthy restraint, revenge was inevitable.

To many in Israel and the West, this act of resistance will be judged in isolation. They will no doubt say that it justifies the inhumane embargo on the people of Gaza and the arrests of more than 500 people and daily torture of innocents in the West Bank by both Israelis and the puppet government imposed on us by the U.S.

What they seem to forget is that just in the last two years, 2,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli military action and thousands more injured. The cold-blooded fact is that the ratio of Palestinian deaths to Israelis is now over 40 to 1.

The Hamas-led government has consistently called for a long-term cease-fire. For nine months before the election that brought us to power we observed a unilateral ceasefire, ensuring that no rockets were fired from Gaza by our movement. We observed this policy during the first six months in government, despite the fact that our words and actions were summarily dismissed by the Israelis and their U.S. allies.

If the people of Sderot want to know why rockets continue to land around them, they should ask their own government why it has continually rejected our calls for a cease-fire and continued its policy of daily incursions and reckless targeting that put the whole population at risk.

We have tried consistently to create some kind of reconciliation with Fatah. But every attempt has been ignored by Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]. The threat by Israel and the U.S. to cease negotiations if he cooperates with the lawfully elected Hamas government has led to political impotence in Ramallah. This makes our citizens deeply cynical about the peace process. It makes them feel that Israel is simply exploiting the situation and Abu Mazen.

The cranes and bulldozers are still busy in the settlements on our land in the West Bank. Neither is there any sign that the numerous checkpoints that are crippling our economy and social life are being dismantled. While Abu Mazen and Olmert talk of a final agreement, the apartheid wall continues to be erected on land that should be part of any future Palestinian state.

If our people can see no genuine and realistic political or economic horizon and their attempts to establish a genuine truce are consistently rejected, it is inevitable that they will turn to resistance as the only outlet for their anger and frustration. What happened at Rafah recently is a sign of what is likely to happen on a much larger scale if people can see no end to the relentless pressure and aggression that is part of our daily life here in Gaza.

While in the past we acknowledged the right of Abu Mazen to negotiate on behalf of our people, we believe that he has forfeited this mandate, as he no longer commands the respect of the majority of our people. Given the facts on the ground and the total mistrust that now prevails on all sides, we believe neither Israelis nor Palestinians are ready for final-status negotiations. It would be disastrous if the international community were to try to impose this, especially while we remain divided as a Palestinian people.

We have consistently suggested that the best solution to our problems is a long-term cease-fire that provides both sides with the space and opportunity to address our differences in an atmosphere of calmness and normality. We can have little optimism for the immediate future when it is impossible to see any clear light at the end of the tunnel that we are now forced to inhabit.

The writer is a senior political advisor to the foreign minister in the Hamas government.