The first Israeli missile sped down to its target, scorching the Gaza earth. Palestinians collected the body parts of two new martyrs, while Israeli media celebrated the demise of two terrorists.
Zuhair al-Qaissi was secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC). He was killed alongside a Palestinian prisoner from Nablus, who had recently been freed and deported to Gaza.
Then another set of missiles rained down, this time taking the lives of Obeid al-Ghirbali and Muhammad Harara, members of al-Quds, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad.
Then a third, and a fourth, and so on. The death count began on March 9 and escalated throughout the day. The Hamas government urged the international community to take action. Factions vowed to retaliate.
In these situations, Western media is usually clueless or complicit. Sometimes it's both. The Israeli army was cited readily by many media outlets without challenge.
The first round of attacks was justified by a claim that Qaissi was involved in the planning of an attack that killed seven Israelis last year. The Israeli army didn't even bother to upgrade that claim, which has already resulted in the killing and wounding of many Palestinians. Even Israeli media had drawn the conclusion that that attack originated in Egypt and no Palestinians had been involved in it.
Al-Jazeera reported that some of the victims were decapitated, a familiar scene in most of Israel's unforgiving atrocities.
As expected Palestinians fired back. Maan news agency reported: "The national resistance brigades, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine's armed wing, the al-Aqsa brigades and the PRC's armed wing, the an-Nasser Salah Ad-Din brigades, have all claimed responsibility for rocket fire."
Incessant Israeli provocations would not have been enough to end the months-long truce. Palestinians know that Israeli provocations are often, if not always, politically motivated.
This time however, the people killed were leaders in al-Muqawama, the local resistance parties. Neither Hamas's might nor diplomacy could persuade Gaza's many factions to hold their fire.
Israel knows this better than anyone - this is why it sent such unmistakably bloody messages. Israel needed Palestinians to respond, and urgently so.
But why did Israel decide to ignite trouble again?
To answer the question one needs to make a quick stop in Washington. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had recently tried to articulate a case for war with Iran there.
Unlike the successful effort to isolate and invade Iraq in 2003, the Iran war campaign is not going to plan.
Israel is desperate to see Iran's nuclear facilities bombed by US bunker-buster bombs, some of which weigh up to 13,600 kilograms.
Israel's former military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin assured the "free world" - a term often manipulated by Netanyahu - that a bombing campaign could succeed if accompanied by the right measures.
"Iran, like Iraq and Syria before it, will have to recognise that the precedent for military action has been set and can be repeated," he wrote.
There is growing consensus in Israel that "something has to be done" - at least to set back Iran's uranium enrichment by a few years, per the assurances of Israeli Institute for National Security Studies deputy director Ephraim Kam.
Republican presidential candidates in the US and even US President Barack Obama agree.
But Obama, despite his grovelling at the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, has dared to question the timing and the way in which Iran must be brought to its knees. The US president is becoming increasingly isolated in Washington because of his stance on Iran.
It is election year and Israel knows that a window of opportunity will not be open for long.
"Netanyahu won a crucial battle in Washington this past week," Jeffrey Goldberg wrote in the Atlantic magazine. "No-one brought up the Palestinians. Netanyahu has quite masterfully shifted the conversation to the subject of Iran."
He is right, of course, but only within the context of the "peace process" and conflict resolution.
The Palestinians were mentioned - and repeatedly so - but in a different context. Ephraim Kam, for example, expected that thousands of rockets would rain on Israel from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran itself.
Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told the Associated Press: "The whole of Israel (is vulnerable to) tens of thousands of missiles and rockets from neighbouring countries. If there is a war they are not just going to hit Israeli soldiers. The main aim is at civilian populations."
By this logic the only way to prevent rockets from reaching Israel is by attacking Iran. An independent Israeli commentator, Yossi Melman, predicted that a weakened Iran "would undoubtedly have an impact on Hamas and Hezbollah."
Yes, the Palestinians were infused into Israel's war rhetoric. They were liberally presented as the jackals who would pounce on vulnerable Israel.
Who would dare challenge this tired victimisation narrative? Who would have the audacity to point out that Israel has the region's strongest army, equipped with hundreds of fully functioning nuclear warheads, while Palestinian fighters - who had until recently respected the truce, though the siege of Gaza was never lifted - are only armed with light weapons?
No-one in the mainstream media, of course, though Hamas's Gaza spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: "Hamas weapons and the weapons of the Palestinian resistance in general are humble weapons that aim to defend not to attack, and they are to defend the Palestinian people. That does not give us the ability to be part of any regional war."
Hamas has its own calculations independent of Israel's war momentum. But losing Hamas would jeopardise the very equation Israel has been constructing for years. The "radical camp" must remain intact as far as Israel is concerned. No political polarisation caused by the so-called Arab Spring will be allowed to endanger the Israeli narrative - the radicals, the evil alliance, the threat facing the "free world" and all the rest. Great resources have been spent on spinning the perfect story to justify a pre-emptive war.
On Friday March 2, less than two days after Barhoum had spoken of these "humble weapons," heads began to roll in Gaza. Literally. And the media machine resumed its work unabashed.
"Gaza rocket fire disrupts life in Israeli south," read a headline in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper.
"IDF strikes Gaza terror targets following rocket barrage," declared the Jerusalem Post.
It's war all over again. Israeli civilians run to shelters. Sirens blare. US media report the fates of "besieged" Israelis and Palestinian "terrorists."
It matters little to them that it was Israel itself that stirred the trouble, broke the truce and fanned the flames.
Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).