Custodian Cautions About Israeli Military Reaction

JERUSALEM, JUNE 19, 2002 ( Tuesday’s suicide attack on a bus, which killed 19, is unjustifiable, but Israel’s reaction won’t help matters much, the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land says.

Father Giovanni Battistelli said called the attack here “a severe blow to the possibilities of peace here in the Holy Land. We can understand the suffering of the Palestinian people, but these are actions that will cause even greater suffering.” His comments came before today’s suicide attack in Jerusalem that left seven dead.

In statements to the SIR news service of the Italian bishops’ conference, Father Battistelli said Tuesday’s attack by the radical Islamic group Hamas is an “irrational gesture” that ended the life of “innocents.”

As regards Israel’s reaction, whose military reoccupied the autonomous Palestinian locality of Jenin and its refugee camp, the Franciscan warned: “This mechanism of action and reprisal brings no advantage to the parties in conflict.”

“I don’t know what reasons are behind such a decision,” he said. “History, including recently, has taught us that many walls have fallen. I still remember the difficulties that existed before 1967, when Jerusalem was a divided city. I hope for a solution that will not impede movements of entry and exit.”

“Bush’s proposal of a provisional Palestinian state, I think would be difficult to apply,” he added. “How can a state be conceived without borders? One thing is certain: People here are afraid and they are leaving.”