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Relatives of hostages taken by Hamas militants from Israel with the Pope at the Vatican yesterday (CNS/Vatican Media)

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, has expressed happiness at the hostage-exchange agreement reached between Israel and Hamas yesterday, and said he hoped it would lead to the end of the war. Source: NCR Online.

“We are happy with the news and hope that this will lead to further positive development that will bring the conflict to a conclusion,” Cardinal Pizzaballa said in a brief statement released to journalists in Italian and English.

The Israeli Government said in a statement it was obligated to return all the hostages home and had approved the outline of the first stage of the goal.

According to the agreement, which was negotiated with the help of Qatar, at least 50 Israeli hostages – women and children – will be released over four days, during which there will be a pause in the fighting. The release of every additional 10 hostages will result in one additional day in the pause, they said.

The truce is aimed to begin tonight at 7pm (AEDT). In the exchange Israel will also allow fuel, medicine and other humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and will release up to 300 Palestinians — also women and children — held in Israeli prison.

Pope Francis yesterday renewed his appeal for prayers for people suffering due to wars in Ukraine and the Holy Land, saying, “This is not war; this is terrorism”.

The Holy Father met yesterday morning with two delegations: 12 members of the Israeli delegation at his residence in the Casa Santa Marta and the Palestinian delegation in a room in the Paul VI hall.

“They suffer so much. I heard how they both suffer,” Francis said. “Wars do that,” he stressed, adding that the situation in the Holy land reminded that “here we have gone beyond wars.”


Israel agrees to hostage deal with Hamas; church leaders hope it will lead to end of war (By Judith Sudilovsky, OSV News)