Pope Francis on Sunday renewed his calls for Hamas to release Israeli hostages and for Israel to spare Gaza civilians amid the ongoing warfare.
“I continue to follow with great sorrow what is happening in Israel and Palestine,” he wrote on X, adding, “I renew my appeal for the freeing of the hostages and I strongly ask that children, the sick, the elderly, women, and all civilians not be made victims of the conflict.”
The pope said, “Humanitarian law is to be respected, especially in Gaza.”
In a separate post shortly after, he added, “Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!”
The death toll in the war between Israel and Hamas has nearly hit 4,000, and the number of injured victims has soared beyond 10,000, even as Israel readies for a ground invasion of Gaza.
NBC News reports that at least 2,670 people were killed and another 9,600 wounded in Gaza, according to the latest numbers from Gaza’s Ministry of Health, which also said that more than half of those killed (52 per cent) were women and children.
The report added that more than 1,400 people had been killed in Israel and 3,500 wounded, according to the Israeli prime minister’s press office. The office also said at least 120 people had been abducted.
The Israeli military said on Sunday it had confirmed 155 people were being held hostage by Hamas since the Palestinian militant group staged its deadly attack last week, AFP reports.
Families of “155 hostages” have been contacted by the authorities, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said, updating an earlier figure confirming 126 hostages.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, called on Israel to “stop the collective punishment of Gaza” and called for all parties to “return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.”
Wang said Beijing was “communicating intensively with all parties to promote a ceasefire and an end to the war,” according to a readout of a call he made to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, provided by the Chinese Foreign Ministry late Friday.
“Israel’s actions have gone beyond the scope of self-defence, and it should seriously listen to the calls of the international community and the United Nations Secretary-General to stop collective punishment of the people of Gaza,” the readout said.
In the same vein, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urged Israel to avoid causing civilian casualties as it prepares for a ground invasion of Gaza.
“I have said it’s in Israel’s interest to avoid civilian casualties and Palestinian casualties because Hamas clearly wants to turn this into a wider Arab-Israeli war or indeed a war between the Muslim world and the wider world and none of us, including Israel, want that to be the case,” he said.
AU, Arab League warn
Israel’s planned ground invasion of Gaza “could lead to a genocide of unprecedented proportions,” the heads of the Arab League and African Union said Sunday in a joint statement.
According to AFP, both organisations called on “the United Nations and the international community to stop a catastrophe unfolding in front of us, before it is too late,” as Israel readies for a ground invasion following Hamas’s surprise attack last week.
Christian group backs Israel
Meanwhile, a Christian group, the Christian United for Israel in Nigeria, has sent words of encouragement to Israel to continue to protect its citizens in the face of any attack.
The Interim National Coordinator, CUFI, Benue State chapter, Evangelist Mati Acka, on Sunday during the Special Solidarity Prayers for Israel in conjunction with the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Makurdi, condemned “the dastard attack” on Israel by Hamas, a week ago.
Acka, who spoke on behalf of the Executive Secretary, CUFI, Nigeria, Reverend Samson Ozovehe, said, “We in Benue stand to encourage and are in support of Israel. We CUFI in Nigeria in conjunction with CAN Benue State chapter and other Christian bodies in Nigeria, and the world over, are outraged by the savage and dastard act unleashed on Israel by Hamas.
“We symphatise with the whole nation of Israel. We declare that the act by Hamas has no justification and must be condemned by people of good conscience across the globe.
“We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the right like any other nation to defend her citizens against violent attacks. Until all of Israel is saved, we stand resolute behind her in constant prayers.”