Israel/Hamas conflict has gone from war to terrorism — Pope Francis
• Warring parties agree truce
• Release of 50 Jews to 50 Palestinians instaggered release from today
Catholic Pontiff, Pope Francis 1, said yesterday that the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestiniam group, Hamas, has morphed from war to terrorism.
His declaration came on a day Israel and Hamas announced a deal allowing at least 50 hostages and scores of Palestinian prisoners to be freed while offering besieged Gaza residents a four-day truce after weeks of all-out war.
The Pope, who spoke while delivering his remarks at St. Peter’s Square, a plaza located directly in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave in Rome yesterday, said he met separately with relatives of Israeli hostages in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners in Israel and heard directly how “both sides are suffering” in the conflict.
He begged for peace, so both sides would not be consumed with “passions, which in the end, kill everyone. This is what wars do but here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism.’
Pope Francis, however, did not mention the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas which was concluded hours before his speech.
Warring parties agree truce, release of 50 Jews to 150 Palestinians
However, Israel and Hamas announced a deal yesterday allowing at least 50 hostages and scores of Palestinian prisoners to be freed while offering besieged Gaza residents a four-day truce after weeks of all-out war.
In the first major diplomatic breakthrough in the bloodiest ever Gaza war, Palestinian militants are set to release 50 women and children kidnapped during their deadly October 7 raids into southern Israel.
After weeks of Qatar-brokered negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet approved the truce accord at the end of an almost all-night meeting, with the premier telling ministers this was a “difficult decision but it’s a right decision”.
The cabinet’s sign-off was one of the last stumbling blocks after what one US official described as five “extremely excruciating” weeks of talks.
Hamas welcomed the “humanitarian truce” and said it would see 150 Palestinians released from Israeli jails.
“The resistance is committed to the truce as long as the occupation honours it,” a Hamas official told AFP.
The war started after Hamas gunmen on October 7 launched the worst attack in Israel’s history that left around 1,200 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the Israeli government.
Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups also took an estimated 240 Israelis and foreigners hostage, among them elderly people and young children.
Israel declared war on Hamas, vowing to bring the hostages home and to destroy the militant group.
It launched a major bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, which, according to the Hamas government, has killed 14,100 people, thousands of them children.
Israel said that to facilitate the hostage release it would initiate a four-day “pause” in its air, land and sea assault of Gaza, while it stressed that the agreement did not spell the end of the war.
For every 10 additional hostages released, there would be an extra day’s “pause”, the Israeli government said.
Sources from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group had earlier told AFP the truce would include a ceasefire on the ground and a pause in Israeli air operations over southern Gaza.
The negotiations have involved the US Central Intelligence Agency, Israel’s overseas spy agency Mossad, Egyptian intelligence, and leaders in Doha, Cairo, Washington, Gaza and Israel.
3 Americans, 3-year-old Abigail Mor Idan, others for staggered release from today
A senior US official said three Americans, including three-year-old Abigail Mor Idan, were among the 50 earmarked for staggered release from today.
US President Joe Biden said he was “extraordinarily gratified that some of these brave souls… will be reunited with their families once this deal is fully implemented.”