Donald Macintyre in Bethlehem
Benedict XVI throws weight behind statehood solution during visit to a West Bank refugee camp
Pope Benedict used a visit to a West Bank refugee camp yesterday to issue his most resonant plea yet for an independent Palestinian state, while describing the Israeli military’s separation barrier as a “tragic” manifestation of years of conflict.
Pope Benedict gives a speech in front of the Israeli barrier during a visit to the Aida refugee camp
The 82-year-old Pope went out of his way at an open air mass in Bethlehem, and in a later politically charged visit to the crowded Aida refugee camp, to identify with the plight of Palestinian civilians declaring: “I know how much you have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades.”
In a UN schoolyard in Aida festooned with banners lamenting the barrier and recalling the expulsion of refugees from their homes in what is now Israel in the 1948 War, the Pope stood beside the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas against the backdrop of the wall and a military watchtower.