VATICAN CITY: January 18,2009. Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday backed efforts to end the Gaza war and offered prayers for the innocent victims of the conflict.
The pope called for support for all those trying to "stop the tragedy" in the Gaza Strip, just hours ahead of a summit on the crisis at Sharm El-Sheik, in Egypt.
He gave support to "those who, on one side and the other, believe that there is a place for everyone in the Holy Land."
The pontiff expressed hope that all sides could "help their populations pick themselves up from the ruins and the terror and courageously pick up again the thread of dialogue, in justice and in truth."
Speaking during weekly prayers at the Vatican, he also prayed for the hundreds of children, elderly and women killed in the conflict between Israel and Hamas -- "innocent victims of an unheard of violence."
He called for Catholics to pray for "the efforts of numerous people of good will who are working to stop the tragedy."
Egypt was to host a summit of top European leaders and UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Sunday to seek a lasting truce in the Gaza Strip after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire.
The 22-day-long campaign to stop Hamas firing rockets into Israeli territory has killed at least 1,300 people, including more than 400 children, wounded another 5,300, and left large swathes of the enclave in ruins.
On the Israeli side three civilians and 10 soldiers were killed in combat and rocket attacks.
The pope on Saturday sent aid to the Gaza Strip for Catholics there to distribute to Palestinian victims of the conflict.AFP