Palestinians clash with Israeli troops during a raid in Jericho

By Lisa Zengarini

Mar 3 2023

The Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem call for de-escalation as spiral of violence and tensions continue in the Holy Land.

In the wake of the latest spite of deadly violence in the Holy Land, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem have released a new statement this week urging once again for de-escalation and a lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Despite faint attempts earlier this week to reopen dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian authorities, violence has continued and tensions are still running high. 

63 Palestinians and 13 Israelis killed since the beginning of 2022

Since the beginning of the year 63 Palestinians, including many civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces, and, on the Israeli side, 13 people lost their lives in attacks by Palestinian militants.

The recent resurgence of violence has included two Israeli military raids in Jenin refugee camp and Nablus Old City which killed 10 and 11 Palestinians. Israeli Defence Forces said the aim of the operations was to arrest Palestinian militants who had carried out shootings against settlers or soldiers and were planning further attacks.  Last month, a Palestinian shooting attack outside a synagogue in a settlement in East Jerusalem killed six Israelis and one Ukrainian citizen. It was the deadliest attack of its kind since 2008.

Talks in Jordan and ongoing violence

In rare talks held on February 26 in Aqaba, Jordan, with Egyptian and United States participation, Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed to take steps to stem the escalation and to work towards a “just and lasting peace”. Israel also promised to halt settlement expansion in the Palestinian areas.

However, far-right Zionist Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said there would be no suspension of West Bank settlement building and that the Israeli Defence Forces will “continue to act to counter terrorism” without limitations, while Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, termed the talks as “worthless”.

As the meeting was taking place, a Palestinian gunman shot dead two Israelis, including a soldier, in the West Bank. The shooting was followed by two raids  of Israeli settlers and soldiers in the Palestinian villages  of Hawara and Za’tara, in which hundreds were injured and a Palestinian man was shot dead.

Urgent need for de-escalation

According to the Church leaders in Jerusalem, “These painful developments make it ever more necessary not only to immediately de-escalate tensions in words and deeds, but also to find a more lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in accordance with international resolutions and legitimacy”.

The appeal follows the statement they released on 29 January urging all parties “to practice restraint and self-control”, warning that the escalation of violence  “will almost certainly bring further atrocities and anguish”.

In a previous statement in December 2022, the Assembly of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land (ACOHL) had expressed hope that the new far-right coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would bring “political stability”, while voicing its concerns over the “gradual deterioration of the general social and political” situation in the region.

During the Angelus prayer on Sunday, 26 February, Pope Francis too decried the new escalation  and again appealed for dialogue so that Palestinians and the Israelis, “may find the road to fraternity and peace, with the help of the international community”. – Vatican News