THIS column allows me the freedom to write about whichever subject I choose - local, national and international.

Often, I choose a local subject - Newport city centre regeneration, the M4 relief road - because that is what is most close to the hearts of our readers.

This week will be different.

Seldom have I heard so much talk on the streets of Gwent about an international subject as I have this week.

What is happening in Gaza is in the thoughts of many of us, it is shocking us to the core, making a number of us lobby our politicians, making us give donations to relief agencies.

For that reason, I make no apologies for writing about it this week. To do anything else would have been crass.

It's easy to feel helpless when we watch the slaughter of children and babies.

The conflict is seemingly unsolvable, entrenched sides with a generational hatred for one another.

I am no apologist for Hamas. Any organisation which thinks more of its own political gain, the lifting of the embargo imposed by Israel in 2007, than the slaughter of innocents makes my stomach turn. And it is clear that Hamas cannot possibly win this conflict, however many rocket attacks it launches on Israel.

It is also clear that Israel has bombed UN-run schools and its shells have hit hospitals full of the already terrified and wounded. The Israeli Defence Force's firepower is overwhelming. And with that overwhelming force should come responsibility.

It says it is doing all it can to avoid civilian targets.

Yet, day after day, civilians are being killed in the bombardment.

Like in Syria and Libya, ordinary civilians are the most vulnerable and it is they who are suffering the most.

The UK's Department for International Development said that since the Israeli offensive began on July 8, 136 schools - some serving as shelters - 24 hospitals and clinics and 25 ambulances have been damaged or destroyed, while eight UN aid workers and at least two Palestinian Red Crescent volunteers have now been reported as killed.

I watched the BBC's Orla Guerin questioning an IDF pilot who was showing her the technology it says it uses to avoid civilian casualties.

She said the thing all of us have been thinking for weeks. Surely, she said to the pilot, the best way to avoid civilian casualties is to stop the bombing.

In nearly four weeks of fighting, more than 1,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed as well as 64 Israelis, almost all soldiers. It was revealed today that Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old infantry lieutenant feared captured in Gaza, was actually killed in battle. Three civilians have been killed on the Israeli side since hostilities began.

Around 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since the war began.

In a televised address, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested troops would reassess operations after completing the demolition of Hamas military tunnels under the border. Security officials said the tunnel mission was winding down.

At the same time, Mr Netanyahu warned the territory's Hamas rulers that they would pay an "intolerable price" if militants continued to fire rockets at Israel and that all options remain on the table.

While some Israeli tanks were seen leaving Gaza, the IDF said it had carried out 180 strikes today.

If there is an opportunity for an end to the fighting, the rest of the world has to do all it can to push for it.

We cannot give in to helplessness.

Now is the time for our government, and that of the United States, to act. They must make it clear that if fighting continues there will be consequences for both sides.

If there is no ceasefire, there must be an arms embargo.

French president Francois Hollande today commemorated the 100th anniversary of the First World War with an appeal to players in the Gaza conflict to put animosities aside - just as France and Germany have done.

Mr Hollande gave an impassioned speech in Vieil Armand in Alsace, marking Germany's declaration of war on France on August 3, 1914. He was joined by German president Joachim Gauck - the first time Germany's head of state has attended the event.

Mr Hollande remembered the 30,000 men killed around Vieil Armand, known in German as Hartmannswillerkopf, but pointed out that France and Germany "who were regarded as hereditary enemies", reconciled.

He appealed to the world to use Franco-German peace as a lesson in peacemaking and "to stop the suffering of the civilian population", in Gaza.

Surely tomorrow, the 100th anniversary of Britain's entry into the First World War, is a salutory lesson to anyone about the cost.