Pope warns Gaza conflict could spread in Middle East

Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims during the Wed Gen Audience in Paul VI Hall Nov 14 Credit Matthew Rarey CNA 2 CNA500x320 Vatican Catholic News 11 14 12 Pope Benedict XVI greets pilgrims during the Nov. 14, 2012 general audience in Paul VI Hall. | Matthew Rarey-CNA.

Pope Benedict XVI is warning violence could spread through the region, after Israel continued bombing Gaza and a suicide bomb rocked Tel Aviv.

The Pope appealed for a halt to violence in his Nov. 21 general audience in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, as the fighting between the Palestinians and Israelis continued for the eighth day.

"I am following with great concern the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip," said Pope Benedict.

"Along with my prayerful recollection of the victims and for all those who are suffering, I feel the duty to reiterate, once again, that hatred and violence are not the solution to problems."

The Latin Patriarch of Jersualem, Archbishop Fouad Twal, said he is ''horrified by the massive damage of this war, which he considers catastrophic in human and economic terms."

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the region on the morning of Nov. 20 to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and later with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi also spoke with Clinton about promoting stability in the region.

The Pope also lent his support, saying, "I encourage the initiatives and efforts of those who are trying to obtain a ceasefire and to promote negotiations." 

"I also urge the authorities of both parties to take courageous decisions in favor of peace and put an end to a conflict with negative repercussions throughout the entire Middle East region, which is already tormented by too many conflicts and so in need of peace and reconciliation."

Israel has carried out over 1,500 strikes since the violence broke out on Nov. 13, killing 139 Palestinians, according to medical officials. Most of them were civilians and the count included 34 children.

The Israeli military said four Israeli civilians and one soldier have died so far.

The Israelis targeted more than 100 locations in Gaza overnight and Palestinians fired 31 rockets at Israel. The Palestinian bombardment did not result in any injuries.

Israeli airstrikes damaged media buildings for the fourth day in a row, after airstrikes killed three Palestinian reporters on Tuesday.

The first overnight attacks targeted a building of Agence France-Presse, according to an AFP photographer. An Associated Press office was also damaged and attacks were made on hotels hosting international journalists.

Israel's army confirmed hitting one media building and said the attack targeted a ''Hamas intelligence operations center."

"Israel should respect its obligations under international law and immediately halt its attacks against news media offices," Committee to Protect Journalists' official Sherif Mansour told CPJ news.

The committee said attacks also damaged office of British outlet Sky News, Russia Today, Al-Arabiya, Al-Aqsa TV, Al-Quds TV and the independent Bethlehem-based Ma'an News Agency.

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The committee believes both Both Al-Aqsa TV and Al-Quds TV are affiliated with Hamas.

The Pope visited Israel and Palestine in 2009, but was not in Gaza.

In September 2012 he visited Lebanon and asked for peace in the region, while war in Syria continued.

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