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Gerard O’ConnellNovember 05, 2023
A man carries a child at the site of an Israeli airstrike on a house in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 27, 2023, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues. (OSV News photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

Pope Francis appealed “in the name of God” for a “ceasefire” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Sunday, Nov. 5, the 30th day of the war in Gaza. He called for the exploration of all avenues “to avoid absolutely” the spread of the conflict in the Middle East region, as well as for the release of all the hostages, and the delivery of aid to the wounded and the whole population of Gaza “where the situation is most serious.”

“I beg you to stop in the name of God. Cease fire!” he said. He renewed his call for a ceasefire when he addressed more than 20,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square at midday. His call echoed a similar call made the previous day, Nov. 4, by the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Qatar when they met the U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, in Amman, Jordan. An earlier call for a ceasefire was approved overwhelmingly by the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 27, by a vote of 120 in favor, 14 against and 45 abstentions. In the past weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have joined in marches in major cities around the world including London, Berlin, Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Ankara, Islamabad as well as in the United States, also calling for a ceasefire.

“I continue to think about the grave situation in Palestine and Israel where very many people have lost their lives,” Pope Francis said. He was referring to the 9,488 Palestinians whom the Gaza Ministry for Health said have been killed as a result of the Israeli bombing of this 141 mile square enclave of 2.3 million people, since October 7, in retaliation for Hamas’ attack on southern Israel on that same date. Israel says the Hamas attack caused the deaths of 1,405 Israelis, whose memory Francis has also included in his appeals in these weeks.

Pope Francis called for “all avenues to be explored to avoid absolutely the spread of the conflict.” There is a growing fear in the Vatican and in many capitals that the conflict could spread to the region if Israel continues its bombing of Gaza. Already attacks have been launched against Israel by groups supporting Hamas or the Palestinian cause in Yemen, Iraq and particularly in Lebanon where Hezbollah entered the conflict, thus far on a lower key, on Oct. 8.

But Hassan Nashrallah, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, a powerful Shiite political and military organization, in a televised speech on Friday, also called for Israel to cease fire, warning that if they did not that Hezbollah considered all options of response to be open. But Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, publicly excluded a ceasefire, or even the “humanitarian pause” that the United States now wants, until all the hostages are released.

The pope called for aid to be allowed into Gaza to help the tens of thousands of wounded Palestinians, and to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million hungry people who lack food, clean water and medical supplies because of the blockade and siege imposed on the enclave by Israel. Francis described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as “most serious.”

Pope Francis said, “let us think of children, of all the children involved in this war.

He called for the “the hostages [to] be freed immediately” and said “among whom are many children, [and] let them return to their families.” Israel says there are more than 240 hostages being held captive by Hamas in Gaza, mostly Israelis, but also from some 30 other countries including the United States and Argentina.

Speaking of the children, Pope Francis said, “let us think of children, of all the children involved in this war, as also in Ukraine and in other conflicts. In this way their future is being killed.”

Some 3,900 children have been killed since October 7 as a result of the continuous Israeli bombing on the enclave, according to the Gaza Ministry for Health. They have died when Israeli bombs have hit residential buildings, hospitals, ambulances, United Nations schools, refugee camps, mosques and churches. According to Caritas MONA and Save the Children International “1 child is killed every ten minutes in Gaza.” The Gaza Health Ministry said “1,250 children are still missing under the rubble.” It also said 8,067 have been injured as a result of the Israeli bombing.

Pope Francis concluded his appeal with these words: “Let us pray that people have the courage to say ‘enough!’”

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