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article imageVatican: Gaza Strip is a Concentration Camp

By Tar De Moutonnoir     Jan 7, 2009 in World
Cardinal Renato Martino, the Vatican's justice and peace minister, has condemned the Israeli government's continuing war on the Gaza Strip saying the territory now resembled "a big concentration camp."
Joining a growing chorus of global condemnation of the disproportionate use of force by Israel amid the mounting death toll, the Cardinal didn't mince words:
"Defenceless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp,"
The comments were made during an interview with the Italian online newspaper 'Il Sussidiario' and are the harshest criticism of Israel by the Vatican since the beginning of the 12 day offensive. The pope had made some general statements calling for an end to the violence but refrained from expressing any disapproval of Israeli actions.
The Cardinal went on to call for peace, saying it was in the interests of everyone:
"If they can't come to an agreement, then someone else should do it (for them). The world cannot sit back and watch without doing anything.
"We Christians are not the only ones to call this land 'holy', Jews and Muslims do so too. The fact that this land is the scene of bloodshed seems a great tragedy," he added.
Israel dismissed the criticism as "based on Hamas propaganda". With foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor telling the AFP:
"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,"
With more than 700 Palestinians dead and 3200 injured, including many civilians, a diplomatic push to end the humanitarian crisis has begun to gain momentum. There are mounting calls for a cease-fire after several United Nations schools were targeted by Israeli tank fire causing the deaths of many civilians who had huddled under the blue flag to to escape the heavy fighting. In the deadliest attack, more than 40 people were killed and 60 injured after a tank shell was fired directly at a school by Israel forces. The Israelis claimed it was in response to Hamas mortar fire from within the school and accused the militant group of using human shields. The United Nations later refuted the claims saying no such fire had occurred and pointing to the lack of any militants among the dead.
An Egyptian/French peace initiative aimed at halting the fighting has received support from the U.S and a meeting has now been scheduled for later in the week to include representatives from both of the warring factions.
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