DC Edit | Biden goes to Israel amid fears of a larger conflict

In his 15 years in office, the belligerent Netanyahu had never engaged in an all-out war

The US President Joe Biden’s visit to Tel Aviv will have some bearing on what happens next in the Israel-Hamas war. It is, however, doubtful if the politically-loaded trip, which has to do with demonstrating solidarity with Israel as well as signalling that the United States stands with it after it took the biggest terrorist hit in its history, will dissuade Benjamin Netanyahu from invading the and repossessing the Strip that has posed so many problems to the Jewish State.

There is a strategic bent to Mr Biden’s visit in the sense that he will be hoping that the message of his presence in Israel is strong enough to deter Iran, Syria and other powers, and militant players in the region, from expanding the war against Israel to more than the one front that the Hamas is involved in. There is no guarantee of that either as Iran may not resist the temptation to key up one of its proxies like the Hezbollah in Lebanon to crank up the pressure on Israel.

Israel has moved far enough in its intent to repossess first the northern half of the Gaza Strip, including Gaza City, and hunt Hamas militants on their home turf. In his 15 years in office, the belligerent Netanyahu had never engaged in an all-out war. This time, he may have been pushed beyond the line between special operations and precision bombing to waging outright war. So harrowing was the brazen strike on southern Israel in terms of loss of lives and hostage taking that he has no options left.

A ground invasion raises the spectre of an apocalyptic scenario for the peace-loving majority of the Palestinians of Gaza. Nearly half a million of them have fled south of Gaza City beyond Wadi Gaza while still risking Israeli air strikes and braving shortage of water, medical facilities and the intransigence of Egypt, which has not allowed the opening of the Rafah border on humanitarian grounds to asylum-seeking Palestinian refugees fleeing an imminent invasion.

The horrific lot of the Palestinians of Gaza, already inured to being blockaded for years by Israel, can only be imagined as they are now stuck in the middle thanks to the warring Hamas and its agenda of terror despite enjoying a governing role over the sliver of territory. The humanitarian situation is so dire that a part of the American presence through the secretaries of state and defence is to convince Israel to allow aid from donor nations to reach the Gaza Strip as well as work out a way to get the Rafah crossing opened to allow at least foreigners to leave and create safe zones which civilians can flee to.

Whatever be the compulsions and exigencies of fighting a force like Hamas entrenched in Gaza while its fighters use a warren of tunnels for their nefarious purposes, Israel is morally bound to allow humanitarian assistance to the beleaguered civilians who have nothing to do with the extremism of Hamas militants though they may be complicit in allowing themselves to be ruled by a force like Hamas for so many years.

The toll among the Palestinian civilians of Gaza is rising — reported to be near the 3,000 mark, with at least another 10,000 wounded — and a land invasion will only send those figures skyrocketing. Israel will lose much face and invite far more hostility even if its cause seems just enough to hunt down Hamas, who caused carnage last week, with an invasion in the hope that they could be isolated and diminished, if not eliminated.

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