No one knows what lies ahead, and unfortunately there are no signs that what started yesterday may end soon.” Father Gabriel Romanelli, pastor of Gaza’s Catholic parish dedicated to the Holy Family, describes the overwhelming feelings of uncertainty burdened with sad forebodings prevailing in the local population after the massive attack launched by Hamas militiamen against Israel. Weighing above all is the memory of what has happened in the past in other phases of the conflict. “For situations much less serious than the current one,” recalls the Argentine priest, a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, “very long wars started here previously. And now in the face of all this, I am constantly reminded of Pope Pius XII’s appeal before the outbreak of World War II: nothing is lost with peace, everything can be lost with war. These are words also repeated by St. John Paul II.” For Father Gabriel now, one can only “pray and hope that the war will end as soon as possible, to make it less difficult for the wounds to heal and then work for the justice and peace that so many Israelis and Palestinians desire within their hearts.”
The attack on Israeli territory began at dawn on Saturday, October 7. Thousands of rockets from Gaza toward Israeli territory fell on areas in the border of Gaza’s Strip and on Tel Aviv and Ashkelon. Raids by Hamas militiamen reached Israeli colonies closest to the Strip and captured prisoners. Marine craft and paramotors (paragliders equipped with engines) were used in the raid. The Palestinian action was dubbed the “Flood for Jerusalem” and the Israeli operation “Swords of Iron.”
The Israeli response took the form of air raids and shelling on the Gaza Strip. The tragic death toll continues to rise. One day into the attack, and according to figures reported by official sources on both sides, the number of dead is at least 800. Meanwhile, Israeli army spokesmen said they have evacuated Israeli civilians from settlements in the belt around the Gaza Strip in preparation for military operations to be conducted against Hamas militiamen barricaded inside. The Israeli army has not yet begun operations to penetrate the Gaza territory, which many analysts have foreshadowed as a future move by the Jewish state’s armed forces.
On the morning of today, Sunday, Oct. 8, Pope Francis also expressed “apprehension and sorrow” over what is happening in the Holy Land, “where violence has erupted even more ferociously, causing hundreds of deaths and injuries. “After the the Angelus, addressing the multitude gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Bishop of Rome expressed closeness to the families of the victims, praying for them “and for them and for all those who are living hours of terror and anguish. War,” the Pontiff continued, “is a defeat: every war is a defeat! Let us pray for peace in Israel and Palestine!