When asked by journalists, Shireen Halil, a Palestinian and Christian woman from Bethlehem, reiterated that they met with the Holy Father to “ask for peace and justice” and not to “manipulate the pope’s words.”
Halil noted that at the beginning of the audience they felt “astonished” by the amount of information the Holy Father knew about the conflict.
Mohammed Halalo, who lives in Belgium, said that just a few days ago a bomb from an Israeli air strike fell on the building where his relatives lived. “My entire family has lost their lives in an instant,” he lamented.
‘We asked the pope to visit Gaza’
Palestinian Yousef Alkhoury conveyed his fear that “we will get used to the blood” of war and said that they asked Pope Francis to visit Gaza.
Halalo stated that the Holy Father responded that that was “a good idea” and that he “promised” to consult through diplomatic channels to study a safe time to go. “We believe that his presence can bring peace to the region,” Halalo said.
In response to a question from one of the journalists about their perception of Hamas, the Palestinian delegation preferred not to make any statement on the matter.
‘They have taken my family away from me’
The relatives of those kidnapped by Hamas terrorists in Gaza also had time to present their conclusions after the visit to the Holy Father. Of the 12, eight of them were able to speak alone with the pontiff.
During the press conference, Moshe Leimberg said that his wife and 17-year-old daughter were taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7.
“We haven‘t seen or heard anything since then. It‘s been 47 days. And I am alone. Every day I wake up... and wait a minute or two to hear the familiar sounds I‘m used to hearing, and there‘s nothing,” he said. “My family has been taken away from me, and my life is no longer what it was and it will never be again.”
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A member of the Israeli delegation disagreed with the term “terrorism” used by Pope Francis to describe the war and stressed that it is a “false equivalence” since it equates Hamas terrorism with Israeli defense operations.
Cease-fire agreement reached
The meetings took place shortly after Israel and Hamas reached an agreement for a temporary four-day cease-fire.
During this time, Hamas has agreed to the release of at least 50 of the kidnapped hostages in exchange for the release of 150 underage Palestinian women held in Israeli prisons.
More than 40 days since the war began, nearly 13,300 Palestinians have lost their lives in Gaza, of which about 5,600 are children. In Israel, the dead are estimated at 1,200.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.