Can Israel Survive Its Assault on Gaza?

The assault, no matter how it ends, will not ease the Jewish state's existential anxiety. Peace, not war, is its only hope

Tivadar Domaniczky / VII for TIME

Soldiers on patrol at Kibbutz Nir Am, a mile from Gaza. Even after the start of Israel's Jan. 4 ground offensive, communities near the border remained vulnerable to Hamas' rockets.

Clarification Appended March 2, 2009

As Israeli troops encircle Gaza City, their commanders are faced with a painful dilemma: How far must they advance into the deadly labyrinth of slums and refugee camps where Hamas militants await with booby-trapped houses and snipers? With each passing day, Israel's war against Hamas grows riskier and more punishing, with the gains appearing to diminish compared to the spiraling costs — to Israel's moral stature, to the lives of Palestinian civilians and to the world's hopes that an ancient conflict can ever be resolved. Ideally, in a war...

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