We strongly condemn the indiscriminate attacks by Israeli military on the civilian population in Gaza, as we absolutely condemn the absurd and immoral firing of rockets by militants from Gaza to populated areas in Israel. The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, which met in Geneva last week, has expressed deep sorrow and concern over the increasing levels of tension and violence that have again reached frightening proportions following the tragic death of young people in Israel and Palestine.

Since last Monday, Israeli aerial bombardment of Gaza has killed 86 Palestinians and injured more than 550 people. Most of the dead are reported to be civilians, including the elderly, women and children. There are many who are mourning the loss of their loved ones among families and friends. We join them in prayers, so that God bestows his love and mercy upon them and comforts them during these difficult moments of sorrow.

Both Israelis and Palestinians require their well-being, security and a just and genuine peace. The recent failure of the negotiations and the loss of prospects for a two-state solution and the end of occupation, as well as a just peace and vision of a common future have led to the unbearable and infernal cycle of violence and hatred that we are witnessing today.

What is happening in Gaza now is not an isolated tragedy. These events have to be seen in the context of the occupation of Palestinian territories that began in 1967. The WCC has always called for an end to this illegal occupation and the continuous blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel. Without an end to the occupation, the cycle of violence will continue.

We urge the United Nations Security Council, meeting this afternoon in New York, to demand that all parties to the conflict immediately put an end to all kinds of violence. We also call upon all churches and religious leaders to work together to transform the discourse of hatred and revenge that is spreading more and more in many circles in society into one that sees the other as neighbour and as equal brother and sister in the one God. In this tragic situation we see great hope that could emerge from the initiative undertaken by the many Israelis making condolence calls and visits to the families of the Palestinians who have become victim of the violence.

May our Lord bless all peacemakers and their efforts aimed at breaking the cycle of violence.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary