Benedict XVI appeals for end to violence in Gaza as cease-fire is tested
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

.- After praying the Angelus from the window of his study today, Pope Benedict XVI issued a plea for an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip and offered his prayers for those working for peace. Although Israel declared a cease-fire early on Sunday morning, Hamas has pledged to continue its resistance.

The Holy Father began his appeal for peace in the Gaza Strip by emphasizing the suffering of innocent victims of the violence. “Let us also remember today before the Lord the hundreds of children, elderly, women, the innocent victims of the unprecedented violence, the injured, those mourning their loved ones and those who have lost their possessions."

The Pope then called for prayers for all of those trying to stop the “tragedy.”

"In this sense," he continued, "I renew my encouragement to those who, on both sides, believe that there is room for everyone in the Holy Land, so that they may help their people to rise again from the rubble and from the terror, and, courageously, return to dialogue in justice and truth. This is the only path that can truly reveal a future of peace for the children of this beloved region!"

At 2:00 a.m. local time on Sunday, Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire, bringing more than three weeks of fighting to an end.

However, an end to the hostilities may still be theoretical. Israel has said that its troops will remain in the Gaza Strip for now and will respond with force if fired upon, a fact which was demonstrated by a skirmish with Hamas just hours after the cease-fire went into effect.

Hamas has responded to the news of the cease-fire by saying that Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the presence of Israeli troops in Gaza are unacceptable. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told Reuters that, "These constitute acts of war so this won't mean an end to resistance."

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