Pope Francis deplores Israeli 'terrorism' in Gaza

Pope Francis deplores Israeli 'terrorism' in Gaza
Pope Francis on Sunday condemned killings of two women in a Catholic parish in Gaza, where he said "defenceless civilians" were targeted by shootings and bombs
3 min read
18 December, 2023
Pope Francis had also made renewed calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza [Getty]

Pope Francis on Sunday suggested Israel was using "terrorism" tactics in Gaza, deploring the reported killing by Israeli forces of two Christian women who had taken refuge in a church complex.

At his weekly blessing, Francis referred to a statement about an incident on Saturday by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Catholic authority in the Holy Land.

The Patriarchate said a "sniper" by the Israeli forces killed the two women, whom the pope named as Nahida Khalil Anton and her daughter Samar, as they walked to a convent of nuns in the compound of the Holy Family Parish.

The Patriarchate statement said seven other people were shot and wounded as they tried to protect others.

"I continue to receive very grave and painful news from Gaza," Francis said. "Unarmed civilians are the objects of bombings and shootings. And this happened even inside the Holy Family parish complex, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick or disabled, nuns."

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Francis said they were killed by "snipers" and also referred to the Patriarchate's statement that a convent of nuns of the order founded by Mother Teresa was damaged by Israeli tank fire.

"Some would say 'It is war. It is terrorism.' Yes, it is war. It is terrorism," he said.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the incident was still under review and had no immediate comment on the pope's words, according to news agency Reuters.

Israeli forces said that church representatives had contacted it early on Saturday regarding explosions in the area but did not report any casualties in the church complex.

"[Israeli forces] only targets terrorists and terror infrastructure and does not target civilians, no matter their religion," the military said.

The pope's remarks on Sunday marked the second time in less than a month that he used the word "terrorism" while speaking of events in Gaza.

On November 22, after meeting separately with Israeli relatives of hostages held by Hamas and with Palestinians who have family in Gaza, he said: "This is what wars do. But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism."

Later that day, a messy dispute broke out over whether he used the word "genocide" to describe events in Gaza, with Palestinians who met him insisting that he did and the Vatican saying he did not.

Israel stepped up its bombardment of Gaza overnight and into Sunday, killing at least 40 people, Palestinian officials said.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, Israel's military offensive in Gaza has killed 18,800 people, mostly women and children.