Bishops call for international peace initiative in Middle East

 The Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has called on the international community to launch a peace initiative in the Middle East. At its annual Low Week meeting, the bishops made an appeal for the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to be given more help in working towards peace. The Conference - chaired by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - backed a plea by the Patriachs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem that the international community "come to the rescue of all our peoples." The bishops also called for an end to violence on both sides of the conflict saying "the invations of the Israeli forces into the Palestinian towns go far beyond the limits of self-defence" and the attacks on Israelis by individuals were "moral outrages" that "betray the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people". The Conference stated: "The recent murderous attacks mounted from the Palestinian territories against innocent Israeli civilians, such as the one at a Passover supper, cannot be tolerated: they are moral outrages, both in their indiscriminate targeting of the civilian population, and in their effects. They betray the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people and they inevitably erode aspirations for a just peace among Israeli leaders and the general public." The bishops said violence could not be ended, or peace and reconciliation achieved, until a root cause of the conflict was addressed - Israeli's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. The statement said: "The invasions of the Israeli forces into the Palestinian towns go far beyond the limits of self-defence, and even beyond the attempt to arrest or kill known militants. "The invasions themselves escalate the levels of violence, so undermining any prospects of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, especially since their massively-destructive force seems intended to crush all Palestinian institutions and to block the emergence of a viable Palestinian state."

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