Pope warns bloodshed in Gaza hurts peace: 'War begets war'

In this photo taken with slow shutter speed, Pope Francis waves to the crowd as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis checks his watch as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis warned Wednesday that the latest spasm of violence in the Holy Land is only hurting chances for peace, and called for revived efforts at dialogue and justice.

Francis said he was "very worried and pained" at the bloodshed and expressed his "great pain for the dead and wounded" and all those who suffer. Leading thousands of people in prayer Wednesday at the end of his weekly general audience, he said the use of violence can never bring about peace.

"War begets war, violence begets violence," he said.

Francis didn't single out either the Israelis or the Palestinians in his comments, instead urging all sides and the international community to "renew their commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace prevail."

He added, though, a special greeting to Muslims who are celebrating Ramadan, saying: "May this privileged time of prayer and fasting help those to walk along the path of God, which is the path of peace."

Francis' appeal came after Israeli soldiers shot and killed 59 Palestinians and wounded hundreds in mass protests at the Gaza border, part of a weeks-long campaign to break a border blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed after Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007. The latest bloodshed came on the same day the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem after relocating it from Tel Aviv. Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as a future capital.

Francis has previously responded to the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital by urging respect for the status quo of the holy city. The Vatican has long sought an internationally guaranteed status for Jerusalem that safeguards its sacred character for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

The Holy See recognized the Palestinian state in 2015 and has long been viewed as being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

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