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Pope calls on Hamas to immediately free captives

"I pray for all those families that saw a day of celebration be transformed into a day of mourning," said the pontiff.

Pope Francis. Photo by Tânia Rêgo/ABr via Wikimedia Commons.
Pope Francis. Photo by Tânia Rêgo/ABr via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis has called for the immediate release of the Israelis and foreign nationals held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Catholic News Service reported on Wednesday.

He also affirmed Israel’s right to defend its citizens against terrorism.

“I ask that the hostages be released immediately,” stated the pontiff at his weekly audience at the Vatican.

Hamas claims to have captured more than 100 Israelis and taken them back to Gaza during the Oct. 7 terror raid.

The pope noted that Hamas’s surprise attack, which has so far claimed the lives of 1,200 Israelis, took place on the joyous holiday of Simchat Torah. “I pray for all those families that saw a day of celebration be transformed into a day of mourning,” he said.

“Terrorism and extremism will not help reach a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but only increase hatred, violence and vengeance and only make each other suffer,” he added.

“One who is attacked has the right of self-defense,” said Francis, while at the same time expressing concerns over what he called the “total siege under which Palestinians are living in Gaza, where there also have been many innocent victims.”

The IDF is currently conducting wide-scale strikes on several strategic centers belonging to Hamas as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip.

Overnight Tuesday, the Israel Air Force hit more than 200 targets in Gaza City’s Al Furqan neighborhood, which it called “a terror nest for Hamas” from which “many activities against Israel are carried out.”

The IDF “will continue to act powerfully against the infrastructures of the terrorist organization Hamas, which aim terror against Israel, and continues extensive waves of attacks in the Gaza Strip,” it added.

Among the more than 2,450 Hamas targets that have been hit across the Strip in five days of war were weapons storage facilities, command and control centers and naval assets, according to the military.

Late last year, Francis met with the families of Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, whose remains are being held by Hamas, and Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who have been illegally held captive for several years.

Goldin and Shaul were killed in action during “Operation Protective Edge,” Israel’s war with Hamas in the summer of 2014, and their bodies have been held by Hamas since. The terrorist organization claims they were captured alive.

“It is so difficult to comfort a mother’s tears,” the pope said at the time.

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