As Gaza prepared for another night of shelling by Israeli jets and gunships, and as Hamas threatened to fire off more rockets into Israel, nobody dared guess in what appalling bloodbath this latest flare-up between Israel and Gaza would end.
One thing, however, was already clear: Israel would be credited with breaking the ceasefire, not Hamas.
On this occasion however the narrative is very hard to spin. On Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, told his cabinet he was “doing everything I can in order to avoid an unnecessary war” and a truce easing tensions appeared to be in place, brokered by Egypt.
But the operation went badly wrong, leaving seven Palestinians fighters killed by Israeli gunfire, including the targeted Qassem man, and one Israeli soldier also killed. The commandos fled back across the border, Hamas rockets ensued, and Israeli jets soon filled the skies.
After all, the truce was in danger of characterising Hamas as possible dealmakers – even as terrorists that are worth talking to perhaps. Weakened after 11 years of siege, Hamas were prepared to show reason, and make concessions in return for cash and fuel to the starved strip.
But for the government of Netanyahu, the idea of Hamas being viewed as in any way reasonable – or at least able to show reason – is anathema. Hamas is the enemy, seeking to destroy Israel and will not change. It is only by maintaining this narrative that Netanyahu can justify the ongoing siege of Gaza, the sniper shootings of border protesters and the periodic bombardment, which is arguably the biggest demonstration of collective punishment on the planet.
Ever since 1948 when the state of Israel was created as 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes, 220,000 to Gaza, it has been as important for Israel to win the narrative war as the military war. A central thread of the Israeli narrative always paints the Israelis as sole victims. The suffering of the Palestinians is entirely their own fault. They chose to flee in 1948 – so the Israeli version goes – so they should not be allowed to return to their land.