Caritas calls for truce in Middle East

 The present situation between the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel is a pivotal moment in the Middle East - aid agency Caritas Internationalis said today. The charity is calling on both sides to practice restraint and to make every effort to stop the violence. In a statement Caritas said: 'The region is trapped in a vicious cycle that can only lead to more violence, especially as those who use violence claim they are retaliating against atrocities committed by the other side. 'The attacks over the last several weeks have killed and injured hundreds of civilians, Palestinian and Israelis, many of them children. Among the Palestinian population, the violence only compounds the suffering imposed by the economic blockade on the occupied territories. 'Caritas Internationalis strongly condemns all acts of terrorism. Terrorism is illogical, irrational and unacceptable as a means to resolve conflict. The persons behind the suicide bombings and other murderous attacks are doing an immense disservice to the just cause of the Palestinian people. 'On the other hand, the nature of the Israeli government's response is such that it can only strengthen the opponents of peace. Incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas, political assassinations, attacks against Palestinian Authority installations, further undermine prospects for a just and peaceful settlement in the Middle East. The systematic destruction of several dozens of Palestinian houses has made hundreds more people homeless and cannot be justified. 'The current situation looks very bleak, but we remain convinced that peace is possible. We wish to echo the words of the Holy Father who on 5 December called on the international community to "help Israelis and Palestinians break this useless cycle of death. May negotiations be resumed as soon as possible in order that the longed-for peace may finally be attained." 'Only a just and comprehensive solution can bring about peace. This can only come through respect for United Nations resolutions and the Fourth Geneva convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war, negotiations, and long-term confidence-building measures supported by all countries to help establish a viable and democratic Palestinian State. We support the call of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, H B Michel Sabbah, to end the occupation, which remains the "key to death or peace". 'The Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority must act swiftly and decisively to halt the violence. Their immediate objectives should be to rebuild confidence and resume negotiations. The current trend of events leads in the other direction - this can only result in even more bloodshed.

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