Pope Francis spoke out Wednesday against the attack by two Palestinians that left five Jews dead at a synagogue in Jerusalem. He pressed Israelis and Palestinians to end the “spiral of hatred and violence and take courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace,” the Associated Press reports.
"I'm following with concern the alarming increase in tension in Jerusalem and other areas of the Holy Land, with unacceptable episodes of violence that do not spare even religious sites," Pope Francis said during his General Audience at the Vatican, according to Reuters. “To build peace is difficult, but to live without peace is a torment,” he added.
Two Palestinian cousins armed with a gun and butchers knives attacked congregants at the synagogue. Four rabbis -- three with American citizenship and one with British citizenship -- were killed in the synagogue attack, CNN reported. Later, an Israeli policeman who suffered a gunshot wound at the scene died from his injuries. Both attackers were shot dead by police.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for the synagogue attack and said it was a response to Palestinian frustration with the actions of the Israeli government. “This synagogue is an institution we don’t look at it from a religious perspective. This institution was built on confiscated Palestinian land. Settlers and soldiers are legitimate targets as far as the PFLP is concerned,” Khalid Maqdesi, a spokesman for the group said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and vowed to “respond harshly” to those responsible. “There are those who wish to uproot us from the capital, from our land,” he said. “They will not be successful.”
In a bid to aid the peace process, Pope Francis mediated a two-hour prayer meeting between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in June, the Washington Post reported. However, the meeting didn't constitute an official interaction between the rival governments, and little progress was made.