Pope Francis appealed “in the name of God” for calm in the Holy Land, after seven days of fighting that has left scores of people dead and hundreds more wounded.
The deaths of dozens of children among them are particularly “terrible and unacceptable,” the Pope said. “Their death is a sign that people do not want to build the future, but to destroy it.” (Read: Violence in Jerusalem Worsens as Israel Launches Air Strikes)
The Pope warned that the ongoing violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip risks degenerating “into a spiral of death and destruction,” with wounds to “fraternity and peaceful coexistence” that will be difficult to heal without an immediate return to dialogue.
Prayers for Israel and Palestine
The Pope urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to stop the clamor of arms and to walk the path of peace, with the help of the international community.” (Read: Pope Appeals for Peace in Jerusalem Amid Ongoing Clashes)
He called for “unceasing” prayer for Israelis and Palestinians to “find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step-by-step, to a common hope, to coexistence between brothers.”
Pope Francis then asked the faithful to pray for the victims of the conflict, “especially the children.” (Read: A reminder from Pope Francis: ‘Pray for doctors in war zones’)
“Let us pray for peace to the Queen of Peace,” he said, before leading them in the recitation of a Hail Mary.
The conflict started during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when Israel blocked off a popular area where Palestinians traditionally meet at the end of their day-long fast.
Reports say Israeli police stormed the mosque and fired rubber bullets, stun grenades, and tear gas. More than 300 Palestinians were wounded in the clash, prompting Palestinian leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, to warn Israel and say that the latter “will pay a heavy price for its forcible takeover of Al-Aqsa.”
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that they “will respond very forcefully. We will not tolerate attacks on our territory, our capital, our citizens, and our soldiers.”