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Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Pope backs Mid-East peace force
Pope John Paul II with chief rabbis of Israel in Jerusalem, March, 2000
The Pope visited Jerusalem in March, 2000
Pope John Paul ll has lent his support to the creation of an international peacekeeping force to try to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


No one can remain indifferent in the face of this humanitarian drama

Pope John Paul II
In one of his strongest denunciations of the continuing violence, the Pope said the international community should take "a more determined role on the ground" to help bring about peace.

Speaking to pilgrims at his summer residence in Castel Candolfo, near Rome, the pontiff called on political leaders on both sides to seek, what he called, "the path of honest negotiation".

Hours before the pope delivered his impassioned plea, there was more bloodshed in the West Bank and Gaza:

  • Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian militant who opened fire on Israeli troops at a Jewish settlement in the northern Gaza Strip.

  • Two Israeli soldiers were wounded by Palestinian gunfire in the West Bank town of Jenin, the Israeli army says.

  • A Palestinian gunman killed an Israeli woman and seriously injured her husband at the West Bank settlement of Mechora.

  • Israeli troops shot the attacker dead.

  • Another Palestinian militant was shot dead by Israeli soldiers after trying to infiltrate Israel from the Gaza Strip with grenades strapped to his body

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said on Sunday there was evidence that Israel's policy of destroying home belonging to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers was preventing potential attacks.

He said there were a number of cases where parents of would-be suicide bombers had stopped their children from carrying out attacks through fear of losing their homes, Israel radio reported.

Israel recently revived the controversial practice following a spate of suicide attacks.

Call for dialogue

In his address, the Pope said international mediation was required in order to create "the conditions for a fruitful dialogue between the two sides".

Palestinian woman looks at demolished home of a suicide bomber
Israel says house demolitions are deterring suicide attacks
The BBC's Rome correspondent, David Willey, said the Pope was clearly offering his support to proposals for the creation of an international peacekeeping force.

The Palestinians have long called for international protection, but the Israelis have rejected such proposals, saying a peacekeeping force would not stop attacks by Palestinian militants.

The pope spoke of the "deathly spiral of revenge" that is afflicting the Holy Land, saying: "No one can remain indifferent in the face of this humanitarian drama."

Violence no solution

The Pope said he had been very concerned this summer at the almost daily episodes of violence in the Middle East which had cost the lives of so many men and women.

Palestinian stone throwers
The Pope said force of arms will not bring peace
"When will people realise that peaceful co-existence between Jews and the Palestinians can never be achieved through force of arms?" he asked.

"Armed attacks, walls of separation and reprisals will never lead to a just solution of the present conflict."

"The Pope", he went on - referring to himself in the third person as he often does - "suffers with those who are bereaved and he is near to the many innocent people paying the price for such violence."

Pope John Paul visited Israel and the West Bank in March 2000, and has frequently used his sermons to call for peace in the region.

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The BBC's David Willey
"He spoke of the deadly spiral of revenge"

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