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The counting of rockets and missiles being fired at the south and close to central Israel has become a permanent ritual, a sort of scale on which the degree of calm is measured. But the suffering and difficulties experienced by the residents in the areas where the missiles strike cannot be quantified.

The mini war in which the IDF kills "senior" figures in Gaza's terrorist groups and the residents of the south receive a predetermined dose of missiles in response, has become an inseparable part of the routine reality which, we are told, is unavoidable.

If we are to judge by the statements of IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, the solution lies in an extensive military operation that would ensure another period of calm, like the one which followed Operation Cast Lead.

It appears some have forgotten the fact that Cast Lead failed to destroy terrorism, and that the pinpoint assassinations of "senior" figures on the Palestinian side leads to their immediate replacement.

Indeed, the frustration and the suffering in the south reinforce the tendency to act in great force in the Gaza Strip. However, when the government imposes, justifiably, responsibility on Hamas for what happens in the Strip, theres is no reason not to channel that power assignment into an avenue for a solution.

Israel and Hamas already have indirect negotiations, mostly through Egypt, on a number of issues. The Shalit deal is clear proof that it is possible to reach specific agreements with Hamas, but it is not the only one.

In the past Israel has managed to achieve unofficial agreements with the group on cease-fires, and set the terms for their implementation. It is fair to say that Hamas, too, has much interest in maintaining calm. The negotiations on unity with Fatah, the Palestinian aspiration to gain international recognition, and the possibility that the leadership of Hamas will have to find an alternative to Damascus for refuge, may serve as serious motives for reaching a tacit understanding with Israel.

Before the Israel's air force and the tanks rush once more toward Gaza, carrying out an operation whose beginning is known but not its end, it is essential to examine the possibility of establishing a cease-fire in different ways.

The residents of the south shouldn't pay the price of a military operation in Gaza.