THE Israeli government on Tuesday announced that it was ending its military operation in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that the offensive was very much successful. So far more than 1300 Palestinians, including 200 children, have died, and thousands more have been wounded, since Israel launched its blitz on a defenceless population. According to estimates, around 22,000 buildings including factories, schools and homes, have been reduced to rubble, putting the repair bill at $1.9 billion. The war has deprived the Palestinian population of food, electricity and drinking water. Israel's blockade of border crossings is making it difficult for medicine and emergency supplies to come in. A ray of hope, the UN headquarters along with a food depot, was bombed by Israel, forcing aid workers and doctors out of the area. The scene in Jabalya camp is one of utter chaos as almost all the buildings and homes have been destroyed. While Mr Olmert might be thinking that the objectives of the war had been achieved, the reality is that Israel had added another gory chapter to its brutal history, where events like Sabra-Chatila, Deir Yassin, and Jenin keep hitting the memory. The factor of the US extending its express support to the Zionist entity must not be overlooked. This was a most important factor that resulted in the present bloodshed. Together with the Israeli government, oiutgoing US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ever since the elections in Gaza in 2006 that brought Hamas to power, had been working to topple Hamas. Tel Aviv and Washington wanted the government of Mahmoud Abbass in the West Bank to take control of Gaza Strip. Thus the present mess to a large extent can be attributed to their machinations. Besides, the ruling Kadima had in mind the next month's general elections. The military offensive was meant to show to the electorate that the party could be serious in undermining Hamas. The Obama Administration that has replaced the neocon-dominated policymakers, and raises hopes of change in the status quo. The Israelis would be viewing the development with some unease, as according to reports the withdrawal of ground forces from Gaza is meant not to offend the new President. But considering the destruction in Gaza and loss of life, President Obama ought to take the Israelis to task and firmly deal with the Zionists from Day One. If he wants durable peace in the region to prevail, he would also have to press Israel to respect UN resolutions and pave the way for the creation of a permanent Palestinian homeland.