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Pope sparks criticism for 'equating Israel, Hamas'

Pope sparks criticism for 'equating Israel, Hamas'

In remarks after meeting delegations of Israelis, Palestinians

ROME, 22 November 2023, 16:34

Redazione ANSA




Pope Francis sparked criticism on Wednesday for allegedly equating Israel and Hamas in remarks made during the general audience after meeting with delegations of Israelis and Palestinians at the Vatican.
    "They suffer so much, I heard how they both suffer," said the pope, referring to testimonies brought by the group of Israelis with relatives who were taken hostage in Gaza by Hamas during the October 7 attacks and of Palestinians with family members living in the enclave that has been the target of the Israeli response.
    "Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond war: this is not war, it is terrorism," he continued.
    Members of the Israeli delegation were quick to react, with one person named Nadav insisting that there can be "no equivalence between Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation and uses civilians as shields, and Israel, which defends civilians".
    Another member of the delegation, Yehuda, expressed "disappointment" that Francis allegedly "did not mention Hamas and did not speak of it as a terrorist organisation".
    "He only said that the war must end," he continued, adding that there had been "no time to tell him our story".
    However, Yair Rotem, another delegation member, said the meeting had been "effective".
    "(The pope) listened to us," he said.
    Noemi Di Segni, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, also had words of criticism for Francis.
    "The Pope puts everyone on the same level in terms of the starting and finishing points," Di Segni told ANSA.
    "But the starting point is the terrorism that is used to execute a plan to exterminate the Jews throughout the world, while the war is necessary for the defence of Israel and its people.
    "It involves suffering, but the victims must be linked to who is truly to blame," she said.
    Meanwhile Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni had to step in during a press conference with the Palestinian delegation in Rome after they claimed the pope had recognised during their meeting that the Palestinian people are undergoing "a genocide".
    "I am not aware that he used such a word," said Bruni, rejecting the claim.
    "He used the words with which he expressed himself during the general audience, and which in any case represent the terrible situation being experienced in Gaza," he added.
    "There are ten of us and we all heard it," said the Palestinian delegation in reply.
    The Palestinians also said they had invited the Pope to visit Gaza, saying he could stop the war, and Francis said it might be a good idea to go there when the circumstances permit.


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