16 February 2024, The Tablet

Israeli embassy rebukes Parolin for criticising Gaza death toll

by Matthew Santucci, CNA

Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that “we cannot continue like this” and “we must find other ways to solve the problem of Gaza”.

Israeli embassy rebukes Parolin for criticising Gaza death toll

The Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz met Pope Francis on 2 February.
Vatican Media/CNA

The Embassy of Israel to the Holy See issued a sharp rebuke after the Vatican’s Secretary of State criticised Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza.

In comments to the press on 13 February, Parolin said that Israel’s response to the Hamas terror attack on 7 October has not been “proportionate”, with the prelate arguing that “we cannot continue like this” and “we must find other ways to solve the problem of Gaza, the problem of Palestine”.

Parolin also observed that since the outbreak of the war, the Holy See has issued “a clear and unreserved condemnation of what happened on 7 October” as well as “a clear and unreserved condemnation of every type of antisemitism”. 

He went on to say that “at the same time” the Holy See has requested “that Israel’s right to defence, that was invoked to justify this operation, be proportionate…and certainly with 30,000 deaths it is not”.

In a response to the cardinal’s remarks posted on social media, the Israeli embassy said that “judging the legitimacy of a war without taking into account ALL [sic] relevant circumstances and data inevitably leads to erroneous conclusions”. 

“Gaza has been transformed by Hamas into the largest terrorist base ever seen,” the embassy’s statement argued. “There is almost no civilian infrastructure that has not been used by Hamas for its criminal plans, including hospitals, schools, places of worship, and many others.”

“Gaza civilians also actively participated in the 7 October unprovoked invasion of Israeli territory, killing, raping, and taking civilians hostage,” it continued. “All these acts are defined as war crimes.” 

The embassy said that “in stark contrast” to the Hamas assault, “IDF operations are conducted in full compliance with international law”.

The embassy’s press release also addressed the issue of civilian deaths, indicating that in the case of the IDF, “for every Hamas militant killed, three civilians lost their lives”, which contrasts favourably with “past wars and operations of Nato forces or Western forces in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan [where] the proportion was nine or 10 civilians for every terrorist.” 

“Any objective observer cannot help but come to the conclusion that the responsibility for the death and destruction in Gaza lies with Hamas and Hamas alone.” 

However, an editorial published by Vatican Media on 15 February affirmed Parolin’s “realistic view” of the conflict in the Gaza Strip. “The Holy See is always on the side of the victims,” the editorial said, pointing to the high number of “innocent civilians, one-third of whom are children”, killed by bombings in Gaza.

“Israel’s right to bring the perpetrators of the October massacre to justice cannot justify this carnage,” it emphasised.

The Associated Press has reported that the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry is the only official source for casualty statistics in Gaza and does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Parolin made his remarks before a bilateral meeting with officials from the Italian state, including Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella, to mark the ninety-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Lateran Pact. 

The Lateran Pact, signed in 1929 – and renegotiated in 1985 – was a formal accord between the Holy See and the then-Kingdom of Italy that recognised the territorial sovereignty of the Vatican City State, the extraterritorial sovereignty of the papal basilicas, the full independence of the Pope, and a range of other privileges for the Church in Italy.

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