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Pope Francis Says Israel-Palestine Conflict has Gone Beyond War to ‘Terrorism’

Pope Francis met separately on Wednesday with Israeli relatives of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians with family in Gaza and said the conflict had gone beyond war to become “terrorism”, Reuters has reported.

Speaking in unscripted remarks at his general audience in St Peter’s Square shortly after the meetings in his residence, Pope Francis said that he had heard directly how “both sides are suffering” in the conflict. “This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism,” said the pontiff.

He asked for prayers so that both sides would “not go ahead with passions, which, in the end, kill everyone”.

Israel’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Raphael Schutz, said that he did not want to refer directly to what the pope had said but claimed that, “There is a simple distinction, one side is murdering, raping, and does not care about those on their own side. The other side is engaged in a war of self-defence.”

Schutz was speaking at a news conference with Israeli families who had met the pope. Most said that they were not aware of the pope’s comments because they happened after their meeting. Palestinian families were due to hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

During the general audience, a group of Palestinians in the crowd held up pictures of bodies wrapped in white cloth and a placard saying “the Nakba continues”. Nakba is the Arabic word for “catastrophe” and refers to the 1948 displacement and dispossession of Palestinians that surrounded Israel’s creation in Palestine.

The meetings and the pope’s comments came hours after Israel and Hamas agreed to a truce in Gaza for at least four days to allow in aid and release at least 50 hostages captured by the resistance movement in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment of Gaza since Hamas fighters attacked southern Israeli army barracks and settlements on 7 October. Since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israel Defence Forces had in fact killed many of the 1,200 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by Hamas.

Israel has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, including 5,600 children and 3,550 women. The occupation state has also tightened the siege that it has imposed on the enclave since 2006, after Hamas won the “free and fair” democratic Palestinian Legislative Council election. The election result was not accepted by Israel and its allies.

Source : MEMO