Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Israel-Gaza conflict: Pope Francis issues desperate plea to fighters - 'I ask you with all my heart, stop please'

Pope Francis: Brothers and sisters, never war, never war!
Pope Francis: Brothers and sisters, never war, never war!

Pope Francis has issued an urgent and unscripted plea "with all [his] heart" for those fighting in the Middle East to stop.

Speaking in his weekly address from the balcony in Saint Peter's Square, Francis said his thoughts were with those engaged in international conflicts as he looks towards the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Mentioning those in Israel and Gaza, as well as the ongoing challenges of life in Iraq and Ukraine, the Pope's voice appeared to crack with emotion as he interrupted his usual scripted speech.

"Please stop," he said. "I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop, please!"

Francis's comments came as yet another attempted truce, this time to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid, fell apart in the Gaza Strip.

More than 1,060 Palestinians have now died in the conflict, the majority of them civilians, while 43 soldiers, two Israeli citizens and a Thai worker have died on the Israeli side.

The Pope said: "Brothers and sisters, never war, never war! I am thinking above all of children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthwhile life, of a future."

"Dead children, injured children, mutilated children, orphaned children, children whose toys are things left over from war, children who can't smile any more," he added.

Earlier, the Hamas militants in Gaza called for a humanitarian ceasefire in order to recover bodies and prepare for the holiday that marks the end of fasting for Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr.

But Israel refused to stop fighting, saying that it could not be trusted given the fact that Hamas had breached another ceasefire less than 24 hours earlier.

Seen from Gaza City, smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Seen from Gaza City, smoke and flames rise from Gaza's electricity distribution company plant after it was hit by Israeli strikes in the Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip,Tuesday, July 29, 2014 (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Smoke rises from the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, shortly after was hit and destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke rises from the offices of the Hamas movement's Al-Aqsa satellite TV station, in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, shortly after was hit and destroyed by an Israeli strike, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Police officers stand in red paint which was thrown during a rally outside the Israeli Embassy to oppose Israel's actions in Gaza on July 19, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
Police officers stand in red paint which was thrown during a rally outside the Israeli Embassy to oppose Israel's actions in Gaza on July 19, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Israel is not obliged and is not going to let a terrorist organisation decide when it's convenient to fire at our cities, at our people, and when it's not."

Further reading

John Prescott condemns Israel's bombardment of Gaza as a 'war crime' 

The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts 

Gaza war rages despite truce vows

Israel-Hamas ceasefire: At least 60 bodies found in Gaza after 12-hour truce begins

Robert Fisk: What would we do if it had been 35 Palestinian dead, and 800 Israeli? 

Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home

Israel may have committed war crimes in Gaza, says UN's human rights chief Navi Pillay

Civilian casualties in Gaza tell stories of death and heartbreak 

Deadly flechette shells used by Israeli military in Gaza 

The myth of Hamas’s human shield 

Israel-Gaza conflict: UN chief Ban Ki-moon pushing for ceasefire

Gaza bloodbath claims 500 Palestinian lives in relentless Israeli onslaught

Israel-Gaza conflict: Gaza suffers its deadliest day after ‘heinous massacre’ in Shuja’iya

Scores dead in Gaza ground battle 

Gaza action 'must be proportionate'

Israel more brutal than Hitler: Turkish PM

Thousands gather for Gaza protest

What if British had treated Northern Irish like Israel treats Palestine?

Israel launches Gaza ground offensive as four more Palestinian children are killed including a five-month-old baby

Response to Gaza 'lily-livered'

Gaza children killed as they played football on the beach

Israeli government insists it does not target civilians – the day after four children are killed by shelling

Israel actions 'disproportionate'

Gaza: Four Palestinian boys killed in Israeli rocket attack on beach

The deep-lying racism fuelling the Israeli onslaught

Alexei Sayle: Israel is Jimmy Savile of nation states

'Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and hookahs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'

Gaza back-story: A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory

From the archives

Students offered grants if they make pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets  

Cameraman in Gaza 'killed by deadly flechettes fired from Israeli tank'

Israel 'used white phosphorus deliberately and recklessly'

Kim Sengupta: Claims that Israel is using white phosphorus illegally won't go away

UN: Israelis hit our headquarters in Gaza with 'white phosphorus' shells 

Dime bombs leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds 

Israel accused of Gaza war crimes in Amnesty report

Gaza: Demolished in three weeks. Rebuilding it will take years

 Outrage as Israel bombs UN HQ, hospital, school and media building

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