Ceasefire called in Gaza as Vatican UN ambassador sees ‘glimmer of hope’

shutterstock 408336367 Military position at the Kerem Shalom border crossing to the Gaza strip. | Roman Yanushevsky / Shutterstock

A ceasefire was called on Monday after days of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel, marking an end to a particularly violent weekend that saw approximately 30 people killed.

Over the weekend, approximately 700 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. While the majority of the rocket fire was intercepted by Israel's "Iron Dome" system, at least one managed to reach Israel, where four people were killed.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) attacked with fighter jets in response, and killed at least 27. Included in that total were eight members of the Quds Brigade, the militant wing of the Islamic Jihad.

At least two pregnant women were also killed, although it is unclear if their deaths were the result of Israeli airstrikes or from a rocket misfire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid the blame for the casualties at Hamas, the governing party of the Gaza Strip. The United States considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization.

"Hamas bears the responsibility not only for its own attacks and actions but also for the actions of Islamic Jihad, and it is paying a very heavy price for this," said Netanyahu at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

Earlier in the week, Archbishop Berandito Auza, the apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See at the United Nations, warned about what could happen if the situation in Gaza were to continue unchanged.

Speaking during debate at the UN on April 29, Auza said that "a disastrous humanitarian situation feeds the despair among the Palestinian population," who are "at times manipulated by extremist groups who resort to violence."

"Too many innocent civilians, on both sides, have paid the price of the indiscriminate use of violence and force," said Auza.

Auza, however, said that he saw "a glimmer of hope" with the creation of a new Palestinian government. He believes that "unity is essential for a politically stable and economically viable Palestine. In this regard, the Holy See commends the tireless efforts of neighboring countries for forging talks with the various Palestinian factions and facilitating dialogue among them."

These talks, explained Auza, are key step for both the Palestinians, who seek statehood, as well as for maintaining security and peace in Israel. The archbishop is concerned, however, at "the increasingly fragmented Palestinian land," which he believes will present additional challenges relating to a two-state solution to the conflict.

"If the two-State solution is to become a reality, the cycle of violence needs to be broken and both parties must resolve to avoid unilateral actions that would undermine the two-State solution," said Auza.

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