Pope condemns killings at Israel-Gaza border
Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the killing of Palestinians near the Gaza-Israel border, saying the deaths would only lead to more violence, and appealed for dialogue to bring justice and peace to the Middle East.
"I express my great pain for the dead and wounded, and I am close in prayer and affection to all those who are suffering," he told tens of thousands of people at his general audience in St. Peter's Square. "I repeat that the use of violence never leads to peace. War begets war and violence begets violence."
Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians near the Gaza-Israel border on Monday during demonstrations against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, the most violent day in the Hamas-run enclave since a 2014 war with Israel.
Francis, who visited Israel and Palestinian territories in 2014, asked both sides and the international community to redouble efforts "so that dialogue, justice and peace prevail."
Last December, when U.S. President Donald Trump announced the decision to move the embassy, Francis called for Jerusalem's "status quo" to be respected, saying new tension in the Middle East would further inflame world conflicts.
Speaking earlier Wednesday in the audience to a group of Polish World War II veterans, he said: "We never learn."
Also on Wednesday, in Jerusalem, Guatemala opened its embassy.
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the embassy's opening on Wednesday in an office complex in west Jerusalem.
"It's not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem right among the first. You were always among the first. You were the second country to recognize Israel," Netanyahu said at the ceremony, referring to its founding in 1948.
Relocation after 1980 UN resolution
Guatemala was one of only a few nations that backed Trump's decision in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and became the second country to move its embassy to the holy city.
Paraguay has said it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by the end of May.
Prior to 1980, Guatemala and a dozen other countries maintained embassies in Jerusalem. Israel's passage in June 1980 of a law proclaiming Jerusalem its "indivisible and eternal capital" led to a UN Security Council resolution calling on Guatemala and several other countries to move their embassies to Tel Aviv.
The status of Jerusalem is one of the thorniest obstacles to forging a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who with broad international backing want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as their capital.
Israel regards all of the city, including the eastern sector it annexed after the 1967 conflict, as its capital.
The international community generally does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the entire city and says its final status should be set in peace negotiations.
Palestinians have been demonstrating on the Gaza frontier for the past six weeks, demanding a return to family land or homes lost to Israel when it was founded in the 1948 Middle East war.
On Wednesday, a day after expelling Israel's ambassador in response to the Gaza deaths, Turkey ordered the Israeli consul general in Istanbul to return home.