31 January 2023, The Tablet

Church leaders deplore cycle of violence in Holy Land

The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem lamented that 32 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed since the New Year.

Church leaders deplore cycle of violence in Holy Land

Israeli police monitor a protest following shootings outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem.
DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy

A Palestinian gunman killed seven people outside an east Jerusalem synagogue on last Friday’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

The shooting came a day after a major escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including an army raid in the occupied West Bank that killed nine people, rocket fire from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli strikes.

Last Sunday, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem called upon all parties in the Holy Land to practice restraint and self-control.

“We have been constantly warning of an exploding, senseless cycle of violence that will only cause hurt and suffering to everyone,” they said, adding that “such a state of affairs will almost certainly bring further atrocities and anguish, driving us away from the much sought-after peace and stability that we all seek”.

They lamented that 32 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed since the start of the New Year.

“Everyone must work together to defuse the current tensions and to launch a political process based upon well-established principles of justice that will bring about a lasting peace and prosperity for all,” they said.
“Consonsant with this, in these most difficult of times, we call upon all parties to reverence each others religious faith and show respect to all holy sites and places of worship.”

Their statement concluded: “We ask that God grant wisdom and prudence to political leaders and people of influence on all sides, leading them to devise ways to help us overcome violence, keep our communities safe, and work tirelessly to bring about a just and peaceful solution for our beloved Holy Land.”

Settler attacks against the Palestinian people have exponentially increased over the past month, emboldened by Israel's new right-wing hardline government.

Recent violence has included the uprooting of 200 olive trees south of Nablus by illegal Israeli settlers. Settlers also destroyed agricultural crops in greenhouses at Ain Al-Bayda village in the northern Jordan Valley.

lsrael is also pulling down more Palestinian houses and making occupants homeless.

Last Sunday the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced a series of further punitive steps against Palestinians in the wake of the synagogue killings.

These include “additional deterrent measures regarding the families of terrorists that express support for terrorism”, including stripping militants' family members of social security and health benefits, and changes in policy to make it easier to demolish homes of Palestinians who carry out terrorist attacks.

There are also measures for the “strengthening of settlements” in the occupied West Bank.

All of these are illegal under international law and are likely to inflame tensions further.

Pope Francis also expressed his sorrow for the escalation in violence, following the Sunday Angelus.

“Since the beginning of the year, dozens of Palestinians have been killed in firefights with the Israeli army,” he said.

He recalled the death of 10 Palestinians, including a woman, during an “Israeli military anti-terrorist raid in Palestine” as well as the deaths of the seven Israeli Jews who were killed and three others who were injured by a Palestinian as they left synagogue on Friday.

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