Pope condemns escalating Gaza conflict, calls for truce, talks
Catholic News Service photo
A wounded Palestinian boy, who medical sources said was wounded in an Israeli airstrike, cries as he is wheeled into a hospital in Gaza City Nov. 20. As talks heated up regarding a possible cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that con trols Gaza has been pressing for an end to the blockade as a condition for halting rocket attacks on Israel.
Catholic News Service photo
Smoke rises after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City Nov. 20. As talks heated up regarding a possible cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza has been pressing for an end to the blockade as a condition for halting rocket attacks on Israel.
Compiled from news services
VATICAN CITY — Israel and the Hamas militant group agreed to a cease-fire Wednesday to end eight days of the fiercest fighting in nearly four years, promising to halt attacks on each other and ease an Israeli blockade constricting the Gaza Strip.
The deal was brokered by the new Islamist government of Egypt, overseen by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Under the agreement, Egypt will play a key role in maintaining the peace.
Pope Benedict condemned escalating hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, saying hatred and violence are never an appropriate solution to problems.
"I am following with great concern the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," the pope said at the end of his general audience.
"Hatred and violence are not the solution to problems," he said to applause from those gathered in the Paul VI hall. "I encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who are seeking to establish a cease-fire and to promote negotiations," he said.
The pope expressed his closeness to victims and all those suffering because of the violence.
Just hours before the pope spoke, a bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv, wounding at least 10 people. That attack followed a weeklong Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip aimed at stopping rocket strikes by Palestinian militants.
More than 140 Palestinians and at least five Israelis have been killed since Israel launched its offensive.
According to news reports, in the peace agreement, Israel will guarantee not to assassinate any leaders of Hamas or any other organization, according to Palestinian intelligence sources. Israel and Hamas will also commit to abide to restoring calm on both sides. And, after a few months, Israel will consider to ease the movement for Palestinians.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Morsi.
To Netanyahu, Obama “reiterated his commitment to Israel's security,” according to a readout of their conversation. “The President made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians."
The readout adds that the president requested Netanyahu work with Egypt and to agree to this cease-fire.
Obama also noted, however, “that Israel maintains the right to defend itself.” And that the U.S. “would use the opportunity offered by a cease-fire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.”
There were questions as to how Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, would handle the situation. Many saw this as a critical first test for the new leader. It appears that despite his sympathies with the Palestinian people, he may be willing to play something of the traditional Egyptian role of trying to maintain peace.
President Obama "welcomed President Morsi's commitment to regional security," according to the White House readout.
NBC’s Andrew Gross reports from the State Department that Secretary Clinton spent 30 minutes with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah today, according to Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner. But Abbas has been largely sidelined in these negotiations with Hamas in control.