Pope: War won't solve Holy Land problems
Benedict XVI calls for end of violence in Gaza Strip in speech before pilgrims, saying history has shown 'war and hate aren't the solution,' urges faithful to pray for peace. Earlier, British PM Brown calls for immediate ceasefire; Russia to send representative to region
Pope Benedict XVI is calling on Israelis and Palestinians to immediately end the conflict in the Gaza Strip. This statement came on the background of Israel's ground invasion of the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Cast Lead.
The pontiff said recent history shows that "war and hate aren't the solution" to problems in the area.
Benedict told pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on Sunday that Christian leaders in the Holy Land are urging the faithful to pray for the end of the conflict and for justice and peace. The Vatican has said the pope hopes to visit the Holy Land in spring.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has renewed his call for an urgent ceasefire as Israeli troops and Hamas clash in the Gaza Strip. Brown also used an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show to urge Arab nations to help stop the conflict. In the interview, the prime minister said: "What we have to do almost immediately is work harder than we have done for an immediate ceasefire."
He repeated that this included Hamas ending its rocket attacks against Israel. Brown said any solution would have to include stopping the supply of arms into the region and ensuring international monitoring.
"The blame game can continue afterwards. But this dangerous moment, I think, requires us to act. There are talks that are going on that would take us beyond the immediate violence into the sort of solutions we want but the very events we see emphasize what the real challenge is - Israel needs to be secure, Palestine needs to be viable."
Brown said Arab powers had to apply pressure to ensure that illegal tunnels used for supplying Gaza with arms were closed. He said, "I sense that the Arab powers are as worried as we are about the turn of events."
He said that during the next few days deals had to be agreed between the powers, the UK, the US and the EU which would result in a ceasefire.
In the meantime, Russia has sent a senior official to the Middle East and will continue to press for a ceasefire in Gaza, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov, President Dmitry Medvedev's special envoy for the Middle East, flew to the region on Sunday, the ministry said in a statement.
"It is essential to end the suffering of the civilian population on both sides, to stop bloodshed by ensuring a bilateral ceasefire ... Russia will continue to press for this energetically," the statement said.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report