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UN decries increasing child casualties in Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A ball of fire and smoke erupts from a building in Gaza city on Sunday amid bombardment from Israeli forces
17 May 2021. At least 192 people have been killed, including 55 children, since the escalation of violence between Israel and Palestine began last week. Calls for an end to the hostilities pour in from different quarters amid the rising death toll, with Pope Francis speaking by phone to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan.

By Vatican News staff writer

Hostilities between Israel and Palestine extended into a second week on Monday, as Israeli airstrikes pounded the Gaza strip after Palestinian forces fired rocket barrages at southern Israeli cities.

In a Twitter post early Monday, the Israeli military announced that its fighter jets were attacking “terror targets” in Gaza. The strikes primarily targeted Gaza City with multiple explosions, leaving tragic scenes of destruction in their wake.

Earlier, rockets were fired from Gaza at the Israeli cities of Ashkelon and Beersheba.

Currently, at least 192 people, including women and children have been killed in the Gaza Strip since violence began a week ago. Ten Israelis have so far died in the conflict.

International calls for a ceasefire have mounted in recent days, but have failed to make much progress.

UNICEF calls for end to violence

In a statement on Sunday, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore called for an end to the violence, emphasizing that the only way out “is a diplomatic solution — for the sake of all children and for their future.”

“As the latest serious escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hits one week, and as the Security Council meets today to discuss the latest development on the ground, I renew my call for an immediate end to the violence.”

She noted that over the past week, “at least 55 children in the State of Palestine and 2 children in Israel have been killed.”

At the same time, “in Gaza, schools have been destroyed, homes and offices have been flattened, and entire families have been displaced,” while schools, homes and buildings have also been damaged In Israel.

“Violence, killing and hatred must stop,” Fore insisted. “International human rights and humanitarian law must be upheld; civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected.”

Meanwhile, in New York on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that the UN was “actively engaging all sides toward an immediate ceasefire” and urged them “to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed.” 

Pope Francis’ appeal

Pope Francis spoke about the situation on Monday in a telephone call with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan, according to the Director of the Holy See Press Office.

Earlier, at the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis appealed “in the name of God” for calm amongst the parties in the conflict.

He lamented the deaths of dozens of children in the hostilities, stressing that it is “terrible and unacceptable,” and a “sign that people do not want to build the future, but to destroy it.” He also called for an immediate return to dialogue, warning that the situation risks degenerating into "a spiral of death and destruction" with wounds to “fraternity and peaceful coexistence.”

The Holy Father urged Israel and Palestinian leaders to “walk the path of peace, with the help of the international community,” and called for prayers for Israelis and Palestinians, including the victims of the conflict, especially the children.