'Extermination of defenceless people': Religious leaders decry alleged Syria chemical attack
In an address at the Vatican's St Peter's Square on Sunday, the Pope told the crowd: "Terrible news comes to us from Syria with dozens of victims, many of them women and children ... so many people are struck by the effects of the chemical substances in the bombs."
"There is not a good war and a bad one, and nothing, nothing can justify the use of such devices of extermination against defenceless people and populations," he added.
Renewed air strikes have hit Douma, the last rebel-held town near Damascus, where first responders accused forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of using "poisonous chlorine gas" in attacks on Saturday, allegations he has dismissed as "fabrications".
"Pray for political and military leaders to choose the other path, that of negotiation, the only one that can bring peace that is not that of death and destruction," the Pope said.
The 81-year-old is no stranger to calling out the atrocities happening in Syria, previously denouncing the "inhuman" violence preventing aid deliveries to besieged civilians.
The same day, Israel's Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef condemned the genocide in Syria, comparing it to the Holocaust.
"I have said in the past and I say again, there is a cruel genocide happening in Syria against women and children with weapons of mass destruction," Yosef said on Sunday morning. "There is a moral obligation not to be quiet and to try and halt the slaughter."
"As Jews who have experienced genocide, as Jews whose Torah is a light to the nations, our moral obligation is to try and stop the slaughter," he said.
"This is an obligation no less than the moral obligation that was in destroying the Syrian [nuclear] reactor."
Yosef has previously courted controversy for his racist remarks calling Africans "monkeys" and inciting violence by claiming it is religious imperative to kill Palestinians armed with knives, following a call by the head of the armed forces to avoid excessive firepower in combating violence.
Agencies contributed to this report.