Israel on Wednesday slammed a senior Vatican official for comparing the Gaza Strip to a "concentration camp," saying the comments were "based on Hamas propaganda."
"Making remarks that seem to be based on Hamas propaganda while ignoring its numerous crimes ... does not bring the people closer to truth and peace," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told AFP.
Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's justice and peace minister, was quoted by the online Italian daily Il Sussidiario as saying the conditions in Gaza "increasingly resemble a big concentration camp."
On Tuesday Pope Benedict XVI said he wanted to encourage efforts to get Israelis and Palestinians to sit down together in peace talks over the Gaza conflict. Benedict was speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter's Square.
The pope said he was following the news of the armed clashes in Gaza with "strong worry." He repeated his warning that hate and rejection of dialogue only lead to war.
Benedict added he is encouraging all efforts and initiatives by those who want peace, and who are trying to help Israelis and Palestinians to sit down and talk. The Vatican has said the pope would like to go the Holy Land on a pilgrimage this spring, but no concrete plans have been made.