JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel is once again at war with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others -- backed by Islamist governments in surrounding countries, including Egypt, Turkey, and Iran, share the vision of a Middle East minus the Jewish state.
It's been nearly four years since the Israel Defense Forces launched its last Gaza operation -- a three-week military incursion called Operation Cast Lead -- in late December 2009 and early January 2010.
In the weeks preceding that offensive, rocket fire compounded to the point that then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government felt compelled to act.
And for nearly two years afterward, Operation Cast Lead seemed to have achieved at least a modicum of success, despite the usual rhetoric accusing Israel of using "disproportionate" force and the imposition of yet another premature ceasefire with Hamas.
Nonetheless, rocket attacks diminished as Hamas focused on rebuilding the damaged infrastructure and smuggling thousands of longer-range, more-accurate rockets, anti-tank missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and the like into Gaza.
Hamas even tried to rein in others from launching rockets because every attack brought a retaliatory airstrike on smuggling tunnels. Keeping the tunnels operational outweighed for a time pounding Israel with rocket fire.
During that two-year period, Hamas rebuilt the bunkers, warehouses and explosives laboratories, manufacturing larger and more powerful bombs, stockpiling weapons, training jihadist forces and repairing smuggling tunnels.
At the end of 2010, the "Arab Spring" saw the overthrow of governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, the beginning of a civil war in Syria, huge demonstrations in Jordan, Bahrain and other Middle Eastern countries.
As an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas felt particularly empowered by the legislative and presidential victories in Egypt. In 2011 and 2012, rocket attacks began to increase, but this time with longer-range and more accurate projectiles.
With heavier and heavier rocket bombardments, the jihadists in Gaza seemed once again to be seeking a showdown with Israel. They got their wish last Saturday in a surgical strike so precise it hit the roof of the car dead center, killing Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades commander Ahmed Jabari, the key player in the Islamists' war against Israel.
In the week that followed, the IAF has struck some 500 terrorist targets, bringing the Islamic world screaming in protest of "Zionist crimes," while more than a million Israelis toughing it out in bomb shelters are hopeful that this time, normal life will be restored.
Three Israelis were killed in one rocket attack this week, others have been wounded and many, including hundreds of children, are suffering from shock. There's a lot of structural damage to homes, schools and businesses.
But Israel is fighting for its very life against forces bent on its destruction. No matter how its enemies pitch it, that's the reality. Israel must defend itself against those who want to wipe it off the map.