08 March 2023, The Tablet

Christian leaders call for 'de-escalation' of violence in Holy Land

Pope Francis prayed that Palestinians and Israelis “may find the road to fraternity and peace”.

Christian leaders call for 'de-escalation' of violence in Holy Land

An Israeli soldier grapples with a pro-Palestinian protester following a riot by Israeli settlers on 26 February.
DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy

The patriarchs and heads of the churches in Jerusalem have said  they are “saddened by the latest escalation of violence in the Holy Land” and have called for calm.

They were responding to events on 26 February when dozens of Israeli settlers rampaged through the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus, killing a man, injuring dozens of people with metal rods and tear gas and torching scores of buildings and cars.

In a statement, the Church leaders said: “This took place as a retaliation after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli settlers near the same town – an act itself in response to the killing of eleven Palestinians in Nablus the week before.”

The recent escalation came during and following the conclusion of a rare meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jordan, in which Israel undertook to halt settlement expansion in the Palestinian areas and to stop, along with the Palestinians, a “spiralling and senseless escalation”.

The leaders felt “these painful developments make it ever more necessary not only to immediately de-escalate tensions in words and deeds, but also to find a more lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in accordance with international resolutions and legitimacy”.

Meanwhile, the far-right Zionist Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich has said there will be no suspension of West Bank settlement building and that the Israeli Defence Forces will “continue to act to counter terrorism” without limitations.

Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, termed the Jordan talks as “worthless”.

Since the beginning of the year, 63 Palestinians, including many civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces, and 13 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinian militants.

The recent resurgence of violence has included an Israeli military raid in Jenin refugee camp, which killed ten Palestinians, and another in Nablus Old City, which killed 11.

During the Angelus prayer on 26 February, Pope Francis lamented the new escalation and appealed for dialogue so that Palestinians and Israelis “may find the road to fraternity and peace, with the help of the international community”.

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