(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Oct. 13)

Preventing civilian casualties is urgent

A humanitarian disaster is looming in the wake of the surprise attack on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip. The methodical attack on civilians has left more than 2,300 dead on both sides just five days after the onslaught on Saturday. After Israel enforced a blockade on the strip to retaliate against Hamas, more civilians are expected to be killed in the armed conflict.

What really worries us is the already massive loss of civilian lives, including the women, children and elderly. In a shocking development, circumstantial evidence clearly shows that armed Hamas units moved into villages in southern Israel and slaughtered a number of civilians. Hamas has been defined as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

Forty corpses of Israeli infants and toddlers have been discovered so far with some of them even beheaded. Another 260 bodies of young Israelis were found on the site of a music festival held in a kibbutz after they were raided by Hamas soldiers without warning. The militant group is using more than 150 Israelis as a "human shield" against Israel's upcoming large-scale counterattacks.

The Hamas adroitly uses social media to express its deep-seated hostilities toward Israel and maximizes the fears of the Israeli people. The fanatical group posts horrendous images of the corpses and destroyed cars, as well as the terrified voices of victims, on such platforms as X, formerly Twitter. Such brutal acts reminiscent of the Islamic State in the past are triggering international outrage.

After the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) raided 2,450 key spots on the strip for five consecutive days, civilian casualties increased rapidly in the region. If the IDF launches a full-fledged ground assault on Gaza -- where 2.3 million people are crammed into an area roughly half the size of Seoul -- more civilians will be sacrificed.

After the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Italy showed their support for Israel, Iran, a Shia stronghold, Syria and the Hezbolla in Lebanon are joining forces to help the Hamas, further deepening the dichotomy in the region. Despite a meeting between leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia to find a way to end the war, a peaceful settlement remains distant.

U.S. President Joe Biden denounced the Hamas' attack as "acts of sheer evil" and promised additional military aid to Israel. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, dispatched to Israel to release U.S. hostages, made a nuanced statement, stressing the importance of "upholding the laws of war." That can apply to Israel, too, after its massive bombing on Gaza. We hope stakeholders find a breakthrough to minimize the humanitarian disaster.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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