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Updated December 16th, 2023 at 16:42 IST

Pope Francis appeals for ceasefire in Gaza, hostages to be freed

Pope Francis made a new appeal to end the war in Gaza, after his weekly General Audience on Wednesday.

Saumya Joshi
Pope
Pope | Image:AP
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Pope Francis made a new appeal to end the war in Gaza, after his weekly General Audience on Wednesday. “The conflict in Israel and Palestine is followed with much worry and pain,” he expressed, according to Vatican News. “An immediate humanitarian ceasefire is renewed in my call: there is so much suffering there." “All parties involved are encouraged to resume negotiations,” added the Pope, “and an urgent commitment is called for from everyone to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.”

He emphasized that the population of Gaza is “on their last legs, and need it.” Additionally, Pope Francis renewed the appeal for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages, stating, “Let all hostages, who had seen hope in the truce a few days ago, be freed immediately so that this great suffering for Israelis and Palestinians might come to an end. A plea was made in conclusion, “Please”, he concluded, “no to weapons, yes to peace," reported Vatican News.

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Pope meets relatives of Israeli hostages

Earlier, Pope Francis had held separate meetings with relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza and Palestinians experiencing the war, on November 22.  Additionally, the use of terms such as "terrorism" and, as asserted by the Palestinians, "genocide," was employed by him, creating controversy. The meetings, arranged before the Israeli-Hamas hostage deal and a temporary cessation of hostilities, involved discussions about the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians.

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The deal marked a significant diplomatic breakthrough since the conflict began following Hamas' attack on southern Israel on October 7. Approximately 20 minutes were spent with 12 relatives of some of the 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, and a similar duration was dedicated to a meeting with 10 Palestinians affected by the war, along with priests who provide ministry in the region.

Gaza on the verge of 'total breakdown'

The Gaza Strip is continuing to be heavily bombed by Israel, with the focus now on Khan Younis in the south. Additionally, fighting has been reported in Rafah near the Egyptian border and in Jenin in the occupied West Bank. Amid all this, international pressure is increasing over the humanitarian crisis. The statement by US President Joe Biden suggests that Israel is starting to lose global support over its "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza.

The UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, meanwhile, has stated that the rest of the Gaza Strip is on the brink of a total breakdown of civil order. According to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza, more than 18,000 people have been killed since the start of the war, initiated by Israel after Hamas killed more than 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostages.

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Published December 13th, 2023 at 15:58 IST

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