The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales issued the following statement today, following their Spring meeting. For several years this Bishops' Conference has accompanied the Church of the Holy Land in support of its mission to work there for a just peace and reconciliation of spirit. We are therefore disturbed to observe the current severe crisis in the region. Morally abhorrent suicide attacks against Israeli civilians have continued, as have actions of the Israeli Defence Force through which hundreds of Palestinian civilians have been killed in a few months. The unlawful assassination of two successive leaders of Hamas has drawn threats of unlimited reprisals, to 'open the gates of Hell'; the Prime Minister of Israel has publicly withdrawn his pledge not to kill or harm the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. Condemning the killing of Sheikh Yassin, the Holy See insisted that 'authentic and lasting peace can never be the fruit of a mere show of strength: above all it is the fruit of moral and juridical action'. A return to negotiations and the primacy of international law is vital if the current tragic impasse is to be resolved with justice. We ask all parties to cease their use of force so as to allow a space in which negotiations can resume. The recent meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon was deeply damaging in its endorsement of the continued existence of Israeli West Bank settlements in defiance of international law. A two-state solution agreed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with internationally-agreed borders that allow the Palestinian state to be viable, remains the only clear way forward. We urge our own Government, whose commitment to a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians has been consistently affirmed, to use every means to revive the Road Map accepted by both parties to the conflict and approved by the 'Quartet' of international mediators. We ask our Catholic community to join in prayer for those killed, injured and bereaved, and for all those who are working for peace and reconciliation. Source: CCS
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