Pope Francis criticizes Israeli military actions in Gaza as 'beyond warfare'

The comments came shortly after Qatar announced a ceasefire. Under this ceasefire, Hamas is expected to release many hostages taken during their October 7th terror attack, in return for approximately 150 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Pope Francis criticizes Israeli military actions in Gaza as 'beyond warfare'
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
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Pope Francis described Israel's military action in Gaza as exceeding the bounds of warfare, expressing his disapproval of the hostilities following discussions with Palestinian refugees and Israeli families affected by Hamas.

“Here we have gone beyond wars,” Pope Francis stated, referring to both Israel and Palestine. “This is not war, this is terrorism. Please, let’s go ahead and pray for peace. Pray a lot for peace.”

These comments were made shortly after Qatar announced a ceasefire. Under this ceasefire, Hamas is expected to release many hostages taken during their October 7 terror attack, in return for approximately 150 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

This deal is also anticipated to pave the way for a subsequent exchange involving more hostages and prisoners, provided the initial terms are adhered to. However, this arrangement does not include a significant number of other hostages, the Washington Examiner reports.

“At least 50 hostages — women and children — will be released over four days, during which a pause in the fighting will be held,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s team announced late Tuesday. “The release of every additional 10 hostages will result in one additional day in the pause.”

Rachel Goldberg, originally from Chicago, presented Pope Francis with a video of the attack in which her son Hersh lost his arm and was subsequently taken hostage.

“This is my son,” she said, as the Pope watched. “No arm ... So my heart has been in Gaza for 47 days.”

The Palestinian representatives detailed the devastation in Gaza, where Israeli forces continued their bombardment even as Hamas leaders instructed Palestinian civilians to remain in the city and not evacuate.

“Everyone had a different story, but they all end up the same: people are dying, houses [are collapsing] over kids, and you're losing your family,” Gaza resident Suhair Anastas, who was able to leave the country with her child told Vatican News. “I guess I was one of the lucky people sheltered by a church, but at the same time, it wasn't a safe place. Nowhere in Gaza is safe. There were people who were in the church who would go out to try to get some food for those in the church. And you'd always keep thinking ‘What if anything happens to them on the way?’”

Goldberg expressed her appreciation and sense of blessing for having the opportunity to meet the Pope and receive his empathetic response.

“But I felt a connection to his concern for us and for all the people, for all the hostages, and for all the people in Gaza who are also suffering,” Goldberg said. “And it gave me a lot of hope.”

Another individual from the Israeli delegation urged Pope Francis to champion the cause for the release of the hostages.

Michael Levy, whose brother was taken hostage and sister-in-law killed by Hamas, spoke to an Italian media outlet stating, “I hope the Pope will help by putting pressure on in the world, as he can. I had no news of my brother for days, until it was confirmed he was in the hands of the kidnappers.”

Israeli military leaders assert that ongoing operations are essential in compelling Hamas to free additional hostages.

“We are determined to follow this road and really bring maximal achievements,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Tuesday. “All these things work together … the maneuver also creates better conditions for the return of the hostages. It deals blows to Hamas, it creates pressure, and we will continue this pressure.”

Hamas officials have admitted their lack of commitment to safeguarding Palestinian civilians. They have also declared their intention to repeatedly carry out acts similar to those on October 7th until Israel is destroyed. Meanwhile, Pope Francis has expressed his hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“Let us pray for peace in the Holy Land,” Francis stated. “Let us pray that the difficulties resolve themselves in dialogue and negotiation and not with a mountain of dead on each side.”

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