Pope Francis said Wednesday he was “very worried” by escalating violence in the Middle East after deadly clashes on the Gaza border were said to have left 60 Palestinians dead.
“I am very worried about the escalation of tensions in the Holy Land and the Middle East, and about the spiral of violence which moves us ever further away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiation,” he said during his weekly audience at the Vatican.
“I express my great sorrow for the dead and wounded and I am close through prayer and affection to all those who suffer,” he added.
Calling for “dialogue, justice and peace,” Francis said violence “has never led to peace. War incites war, violence incites violence.”
Tens of thousands of Palestinians joined Hamas-organized protests on the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, with the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry saying that as of Tuesday, 60 Palestinians were killed in clashes with the IDF, and more than 2,700 injured.
Hamas, which rules the Strip, openly calls for Israel’s destruction.
The IDF said Tuesday that at least 24 of the dead were members of terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Those groups acknowledged 13 of their members were among the dead. Israel claims that Hamas is spurring the violence and using it for cover for attacks.
Francis has on several occasions expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, indirectly criticizing US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Jerusalem’s status is perhaps the thorniest issue of the decades-long conflict, with Israeli claiming the entire holy city as its capital while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as capital of their future state.