JEDDAH: Pope Francis said Sunday that he was saddened the truce in the Gaza Strip had been broken and urged those involved in the conflict to reach a new ceasefire deal as soon as possible.
The pope’s appeal came as international concern deepened over the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza after a truce ended.
Israeli forces bombed wide areas of the Gaza Strip on Sunday, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, as civilians in the besieged territory sought shelter in an ever-shrinking area of the south.
“There is so much suffering in Gaza,” the pontiff said in comments from his private residence, which were read by an aide and broadcast on giant screens in Saint Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis said the end of the ceasefire meant “death, destruction, misery,” stressing that the besieged Palestinian territory lacked even essential supplies.
He said the situation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories was “serious.”
“Many hostages have been freed but so many others are still in Gaza,” he said.
More than 15,500 people have been killed in the besieged Palestinian territory in more than eight weeks of combat and heavy bombardment, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
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Israeli air and artillery strikes hit Gaza’s northern frontier with Israel, throwing thick clouds of smoke and dust into the sky.
The Israeli army reported 17 rocket salvos from Gaza into Israel on Sunday, adding that most were intercepted.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 160 Palestinian deaths were reported in two incidents in northern Gaza Saturday: the bombing of a six-story building in Jabalia refugee camp, and of an entire block in Gaza City.
OCHA said around 1.8 million people in Gaza, roughly 75 percent of the population, had been displaced, many to overcrowded and unsanitary shelters.
Juliette Toma, director of communications at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said nearly 958,000 displaced people were in 99 UN facilities in the southern Gaza Strip.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk urged an end to the war, saying civilian suffering was “too much to bear.”
Hopes for another temporary truce in Gaza were fading as the US intensified calls for the protection of civilians.
“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed,” Vice President Kamala Harris said at UN climate talks in Dubai.
She and Jordan’s King Abdullah discussed the Gaza crisis on the sidelines of COP28. The king stressed the need for the US to play a leading role in pushing for a political horizon for the Palestinian issue to reach peace on the basis of the two-state solution.
Israel ordered more evacuations in and around Khan Younis as the military’s offensive shifted to the southern half of the territory.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they were running out of places to go in the sealed-off territory.
Gaza residents said they feared an Israeli ground offensive on the southern areas was imminent.
Tanks had cut off the road between Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, effectively dividing the Gaza Strip into three areas, they said.
Fighting also flared on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
The Israeli army said it had launched artillery strikes in response to cross-border fire.