Pope calls to end Israeli Palestinian violence   2008/03/03
By: Carol Glatz of CNS

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After recent fighting in Gaza and southern Israel left more than 100 people dead, Pope Benedict XVI urged Israelis and Palestinians to unilaterally and unconditionally end "this spiral of violence."

"Only by showing an absolute respect for human life -- even that of the enemy -- can there be hope of lending a future of peace and coexistence to the younger generations of those people who, together, have their roots in the Holy Land," he said March 2 after praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended peace talks with Israel after Israel launched an offensive against targets in the Gaza Strip.

Israel said the offensive, which included a temporary invasion of ground troops, was meant to stop Palestinian militants from launching further rocket attacks against Israel.

While Israeli ground troops were pulled out March 3, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "We are in a state of war" and that further military action against militants in Gaza was likely.

More than 100 people, mostly Palestinians, were killed in the fighting, which intensified in early March. The United Nations and the European Union accused Israel of using excessive force, while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to the region March 3 to try to salvage an upcoming U.S.-sponsored peace initiative.

Saying the fighting in Middle East had reached "very serious levels," Pope Benedict appealed to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to "stop this spiral of violence, unilaterally, without conditions."

He then invited all Catholics to pray for peace "in the land of Jesus" and to show "careful and effective solidarity to both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians”

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