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Pope Francis on Israel-Hamas war: “Everything should be done to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”

Pope Francis has expressed concern over the “desperate” situation in the Gaza Strip and called on the world community to do everything possible to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

The official Vatican News reports that the pontiff called on all sides to lay down their arms at the weekly General Audience on Wednesday. He said:

The number of victims is growing and the situation in Gaza is desperate … everything possible (should) be done to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.

Francis said that war would solve nothing, but only multiply revenge and increase hatred, “sowing death and destruction.” He added, urging people to take the side of peace:

War erases the future.

Francis spoke after Tuesday’s deadly strike on a hospital in Gaza that killed more than 500 people. Israel, has denied responsibility for the airstrike.

The military conflict between Israel and Hamas began on 7 October when Hamas launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, a multi-pronged surprise attack that included a barrage of rocket fire and infiltration into Israel by land, sea and air. Hamas said it was in retaliation for the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and growing violence by Israeli settlers. The Israeli military then launched Operation Iron Swords against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed at least 3,300 Palestinians, compared to more than 1,400 in Israel.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” to alleviate the “horrific human suffering”.

Hamas continues to refuse widespread international calls to free the Israelis, Americans and other foreign nationals the terrorist group has taken captive. Israel is maintaining a total siege of the Gaza Strip, preventing food and fuel from entering the region occupied by around 2.3 million people.

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