(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Oct. 18)

The Israel-Hamas war triggered by the Palestinian militant group's surprise attack has reached a watershed moment 10 days after the blitzkrieg on Oct. 7. After Israel prepares for massive revenge on Hamas, U.S. President Joe Biden embarks on his visits to Middle East countries from Wednesday. Other countries are increasingly urging the concerned parties to refrain from expanding the war.

Since U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's recent trip to the region, Israel has started to show apparent signs of a temporary letup before heading to a full-scale ground war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli Army attributed it to the deterioration of weather conditions in the region for the operation of its military aircraft and drones needed for military operations.

But security experts have linked the abatement of Israel's offensives against Hamas to Washington's behind-the-scenes pressure on Israel not to escalate the conflict. In fact, Biden on Sunday drew the line by agreeing to the need to remove Hamas yet warning against Israel's new occupation of the strip, as it will be a "big mistake."

The U.S. president made clear his opposition to the renewed Israeli occupation and demanded Israel separate Hamas from the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) — the governing body of autonomous Palestinian regions since 1994. In the face of Israel's defiance, the U.S. president flew to the country to persuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop a full-fledged counterattack.

On his second visit to Israel since the surprise attack, Blinken said, "The president will reaffirm the United States's solidarity with Israel and our ironclad commitment to its security," adding, "Israel has the right and indeed the duty to defend its people from Hamas and other terrorists and to prevent future attacks."

Following his meetings with the heads of state in Israel, Jordan and Egypt, Biden will also meet with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the PNA. The U.S. president is expected to deliver his determination to the leaders to help prevent the war from spreading to other parts of the region. But given the Israeli prime minister's pronouncement of massive retaliation until the "annihilation of Hamas" due to his own domestic needs, the seed of an expanded war is still alive. The rest of the world is closely watching to see if Biden can really dissuade Netanyahu from launching merciless retribution on Hamas.

A protracted war will certainly lead to a humanitarian disaster. Hamas has already killed hundreds of Israeli civilians and threatened to use 199 Israeli hostages as a "human shield." Israel's blockade on the volatile strip has already forced women and children, in particular, to sacrifice. If the war expands, it will have a serious impact on the global economy, too. We hope Biden draws a grand compromise from stakeholders in his trip to the Mideast before it's too late.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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