Pope Francis Calls for Hostage Release and Israel's Right to Self-Defense in Gaza Conflict
Pope Francis Calls for Hostage Release and Israel's Right to Self-Defense in Gaza Conflict

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis, in a resolute address, issued his most compelling statement to date on the Gaza conflict, urging Hamas militants to release all hostages while affirming Israel's right to self-defense. Speaking with solemnity at the conclusion of his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope also voiced deep concern regarding the ongoing siege of Gaza imposed by Israel.

With a heavy heart, Pope Francis shared his sentiments on the escalating crisis in Israel and Palestine, remarking, "I continue to monitor the unfolding events in Israel and Palestine with great sorrow and trepidation. The loss of countless lives and the suffering inflicted upon many deeply trouble me. I extend my prayers to those families who have witnessed a day of celebration turn into a day of mourning, and I implore for the immediate release of all hostages."

He went on to emphasize, "While it is the inherent right of those under attack to defend themselves, I cannot overlook the profound distress caused by the comprehensive blockade that the Palestinian people endure in Gaza, which has resulted in the unfortunate loss of innocent lives."

Just days prior, a harrowing incident saw Hamas gunmen from Gaza launch an unprecedented assault on parts of southern Israel, marking the deadliest Palestinian militant attack in Israel's history.

By Wednesday, Israel's military had reported a death toll of 1,200 and over 2,700 injuries. The Pope's acknowledgment of Israel's right to self-defense came after diplomatic pressures were exerted by Israeli officials, who had earlier perceived the Pope's and Vatican's statements as too reserved.

Raphael Schutz, Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, conveyed his perspective at a conference in Rome on Monday, stating, "We understand that the Vatican is an advocate for peace, and we share that desire. However, we are hopeful for more steadfast support for Israel's right to self-defense."

In his address on Wednesday, Pope Francis conveyed, "Terrorism and extremism, regrettably, do not facilitate the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but instead ignite animosity, violence, and reprisals, causing suffering for both sides."

Gaza's health ministry has reported a devastating death toll of at least 950 people and approximately 5,000 injuries in the densely populated coastal enclave.

Concluding his address, Pope Francis underscored, "The Middle East does not require war but a resolute pursuit of peace, one founded on principles of justice, dialogue, and the courage to foster brotherhood."

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