Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, today condemned the escalation of violence in the Middle East and called on political leaders to help bring about peace. In a statement he said: The recent escalation of violence in the Holy Land is profoundly disturbing. The death and injury of so many innocent people, seeming to doom so many heartfelt aspirations for peace, appals the mind and heart. It is imperative that the leaders of both communities renounce any hope of achieving their aims by violence and commit themselves anew to the road to peace. It is imperative also that the international community redouble its efforts to assist in this search for a just peace, one that recognises both the rights of the Palestinians to live in a state of their own, free from domination and military repression, and the right of Israel to peace and security. Recent attacks, such as suicide bombings, specifically directed at civilians are utterly to be condemned. Today, however, news is emerging that the Israeli Defence Forces' invasion of Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities and towns is itself being marked by wanton and indiscriminate killing. An urgent appeal by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem adds that ambulances and medical supplies are being prevented from reaching the wounded, and that there has been massive destruction and looting. Meanwhile Bethlehem and Ramallah have ominously been declared closed military zones, so that the media and other international observers are barred from the areas concerned. In this context, I wish to affirm the concern of the United Nations Security Council in its resolution 1402 of 30 March 2002. The Security Council "calls upon both parties to move immediately to a meaningful ceasefire; calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities" and "reiterates its demand in Resolution 1397 of 12 March 2002 for an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terror, provocation, incitement and destruction". I ask all to pray for all victims of the terrible violence, and ask our political leaders to do all that they can to intervene to assist the parties to halt the violence and resume the peace process.
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