Mideast needs two-state solution, Pope says in Christmas message

A Palestinian dressed as Santa Claus argues with an Israeli border police officer during a protest in the Occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. (AP)
Updated 26 December 2017

Mideast needs two-state solution, Pope says in Christmas message

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis used his traditional Christmas address on Monday to call for peace in Jerusalem and highlight the plight of children scarred by conflict.
Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Vatican to hear the pope’s fifth “Urbi et Orbi” (to the City and the World) message.
“We see Jesus in the children of the Middle East who continue to suffer because of growing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.
“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of two states within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders.
“May the Lord also sustain the efforts of all those in the international community inspired by goodwill to help that afflicted land to find, despite grave obstacles, the harmony, justice and security that it has long awaited,” the pope said.
He also mentioned other global flashpoints such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and Venezuela, and said the “winds of war are blowing in our world. Let us pray that confrontation may be overcome on the Korean Peninsula and that mutual trust may increase in the interest of the world as a whole,” the 81-year-old said.
Earlier, celebrating midnight mass in Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, attacked the wars that “the Herods of today fight every day to become greater, to occupy more space.”
In a criticism of the US recognition this month of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the archbishop said: “Jerusalem is a city of peace, but there is no peace if someone is excluded. Jerusalem should include, not exclude.”
Meanwhile, both Christians and Muslims throughout the Middle East celebrated the day. In the central Syrian city of Homs, there was great fanfare for the first time in years after the end of battles between regime and opposition forces — with processions, shows for children and even decorations among the ruins.
In Iraq, too, this year marked a positive turning point for the Christian community in the northern city of Mosul.
Muslims in Pakistan not only took part in Christmas festivities, but also hosted celebrations for their Christian friends and neighbors.
Throughout the country, Christian residential areas were bedecked with Christmas trees, stars and baubles. The bazaars in major cities, adorned with festive wreaths, were buzzing with last-minute shoppers.
Pakistan civil and military leaders extended greetings to the Christian community, and said the day underscored the teachings of patience, tolerance and kindness.


Palestinian shot, killed after ramming car into Israeli forces, police say

Updated 25 min 37 sec ago

Palestinian shot, killed after ramming car into Israeli forces, police say

  • The Palestinian man was taken to a nearby Israeli hospital after being shot and died of his wounds

JERUSALEM: Israeli security forces fatally shot a Palestinian driver who tried to ram his car into them at a checkpoint on Jerusalem’s outskirts on Wednesday after he raised suspicions by presenting apparently fake identification papers, police said.
The man was taken to a nearby Israeli hospital after being shot and died of his wounds, a hospital spokeswoman said.
There was no immediate comment from Palestinian officials.
“Suspicion arose that the documents presented by the driver were not his and he was apparently trying to impersonate someone else,” a police statement said.
“During the security check, the suspect started speeding, hitting a border policeman who was at the scene. Following this, the policeman and the security personnel fired at the vehicle,” police said in a statement.
The Israeli policeman was lightly injured, police said.
Palestinians carried out a wave of car-rammings in Jerusalem and the West Bank in late 2015 and 2016, but the frequency of such incidents has since ebbed.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in 2014. The Palestinians want to establish a state in east Jerusalem, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.