Pope Francis calls for stop to Middle East hostilities

Religious leader urges Palestinian and Israeli leaders to listen to the people who want peace

Pope Francis on Sunday called for a stop in the flare-up of hostility between Palestinians and Israelis, urging leaders to listen to the call of the people who want peace.

Francis, who hosted a prayer meeting between the Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian PresidentMahmoud Abbas at the Vatican last month, asked the world to pray so that the two leaders would not have met in vain.

Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square, he called on local and international authorities "not to spare any effort to stop every hostility and to follow the path of peace, which is so desired for the good of all".

Francis, who visited the Holy Land last April, led the crowd of tens of thousands in a prayer asking God "to listen to the cry of our people to transform our weapons into instruments of peace, our fears into trust and our tensions into forgiveness".

On Saturday, an Israeli air strike on the home of Gaza's police chief killed 18 people and Hamas fired the largest salvo of rockets yet on Tel Aviv since the start of the Jewish state's offensive in the Palestinian enclave. Israel's offensive has killed at least 160 people Tuesday, according to Palestinian officials.

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