03/02/2024, 15.55
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Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem call for peace after the bread massacre in Gaza

Humanitarian organisations working in Israel join the call for a ceasefire. Stopping the fighting must ensure the safe distribution of aid and negotiations for the release of the hostages. The ultimate hope remains peace “in the land where our Lord Jesus Christ first took up his cross on our behalf.”

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem issued an appeal yesterday, calling for an "immediate and lengthy ceasefire", after the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) opened fire on civilians who had gathered around an aid convoy, causing a massacre.

“Although government spokesmen initially tried to deny the soldiers’ involvement in this incident, later that day Israel’s Minister of National Security not only praised IDF fighters for acting ‘excellently,’ but also attempted to blame the victims for their own demise, charging that they had sought to harm heavily armed soldiers,” reads the prelates’ statement.

The latter’s appeal is also shared by "civil society and human rights organizations" working in Israel to avoid the loss of further human lives and facilitate aid access to Gaza, which is facing a "humanitarian catastrophe".

In their statement condemning the attack on civilians, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches explain that "for the half-million remaining in Gaza City," the arrival of humanitarian aid has almost completely stopped "due to heavy entry restrictions and lack of security escorts for the delivery convoys.”

“Heavy rains, cold weather, and extreme overcrowding in tent encampments and shelters, have significantly increased the incidence of illness and disease,” reads the statement by Israeli civil society groups, while airdrops, according to the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches, “offer only a tiny fraction of the relief that is needed for a remnant civilian population greater than that of Tel Aviv, Israel’s second largest city.”

Both statements note that a truce should allow negotiations for the release of hostages held by Hamas, whose armed wing yesterday announced the death of at least seven hostages, held captive in the Gaza Strip since the attack on 7 October.

The prelates’ statement goes on to say that, “While expressing these entreaties on behalf of all innocents suffering from the war, we convey our special prayers of support to the Christian communities in Gaza under our pastoral care.

“These include the more than 800 Christians who have now taken refuge in St. Porphyrios and Holy Family Churches in Gaza City for nearly five months.

“We likewise extend these same expressions of solidarity to the intrepid staff and volunteers of the Anglican-run Ahli Hospital, and to the patients they serve.”

Ultimately, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches hope to see the “end of hostilities, the release of captives, and the care of the downtrodden” so as to start “serious diplomatic discussions that finally lead to a just and lasting peace here in the land where our Lord Jesus Christ first took up his cross on our behalf”.

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