Updated: May 17, 2021 07:17 AM GMT
A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City's Rimal residential district on May 16 during a massive Israeli bombardment of the Hamas-controlled enclave. (Photo: Bashar Taleb/AFP)
The deaths of dozens of children in the ongoing violence between Israel and Palestine are “terrible and unacceptable," Pope Francis said on May 16.
The children’s deaths are "a sign that people do not want to build the future but to destroy it,” the pope said as he appealed “in the name of God” for calm in the Holy Land.
At least 139 people were killed, including 39 children and 22 women, in Gaza last week. Seven people were killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier, in Israel.
The deaths of children among the victims are particularly “terrible and unacceptable," the pope said.
Violence began a month ago at the start of Ramadan, when Israel blocked gatherings at the Old City’s Damascus Gate, where Muslims came together for evening prayers during the holy month.
Upset with the blockade, hundreds of Palestinian men demonstrated on the streets and hurled stones, firebombs and other objects at police. In return Israeli police used grenades and water cannons to disperse them.
The pope urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders 'to stop the clamour of arms and to walk the path of peace'
The clashes soon slipped into artillery attacks involving the Israeli army and Hamas, the Islamist group that aims to liberate Palestine from the Israeli occupation.
The pope warned that the violence risks degenerating “into a spiral of death and destruction.”
If the warring parties fail to return to dialogue immediately, it would be difficult to heal the wound inflicted on “fraternity and peaceful coexistence,” he said.
The pope urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders “to stop the clamour of arms and to walk the path of peace, with the help of the international community."
The Catholic leader also called for “unceasing” prayer for Israelis and Palestinians to “find the path of dialogue and forgiveness."
He wanted both parties to be “patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to coexistence between brothers.”
Pope Francis also asked Catholics to pray for the victims of the conflict, especially children.
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