LONDON: The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called for the setting up of humanitarian corridors and an end to the killing of civilians in the Gaza Strip during a visit to Jerusalem.
After giving a sermon at St. George’s Cathedral in the city on Sunday, Welby said: “All bombings of civilians is wrong. We have called for a ceasefire and safe humanitarian passage.
“Everyone knows how difficult and chaotic wars are. The essential is that the principles of just fighting a war and the discrimination principal between combatants and non-combatants need to be held to really, really strictly.
“In an urban environment it’s hard to exaggerate how hard that is, but also how necessary that is.”
Israel commenced operations in Gaza after Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, abducting hundreds more.
Authorities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have claimed 4,651 people have died due to Israeli bombardments of militant positions, including at the Anglican-run Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, which Israel says was caused by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket.
Places of worship, including the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church, have also been damaged. “Bombing of religious institutions is wrong,” Welby added.
In a statement the archbishop joined religious leaders in Jerusalem calling for an end to Israeli airstrikes and for Israeli hostages in Gaza to be released.
“We, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, having gathered in prayer with Jerusalem’s honourable guest, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, join with him in expressing, in the strongest possible terms, our condemnation of the Israeli airstrikes that exploded without warning at the Orthodox Church compound of Saint Porphyrios in Gaza.
“In condemning this attack against a sacred place of refuge, we cannot ignore that this is but the latest instance of innocent civilians being injured or killed as a result of missile strikes against other shelters of last resort.
“We nevertheless remain fully committed to fulfilling our sacred and moral duty of offering assistance, support, and refuge to those civilians who come to us in such desperate need,” the statement added.
After the service at St George’s, Welby met relatives of several Israelis taken hostage by Hamas.
In a separate statement, he said: “I appeal again for hostages to be released and for civilians to be protected. I join the international call for all parties to grant immediate, safe humanitarian access into Gaza to prevent further loss of life.
“I pray again for the peace of Jerusalem, in solidarity with the Church in the Holy Land. I grieve with Israelis and Palestinians still mourning and in fear.
“It is unconscionable that aid is being prevented from reaching children and adults who are not combatants in this war. It is indefensible that hospitals, schools, and refugee camps are being struck. It is an outrage that hostages are being held by Hamas.
“The evil and heinous terror attacks by Hamas on people in Israel were crimes against God and humanity. Israel has a legitimate right and duty to defend itself, and to pursue a proportionate and discriminate response to establish its security.
“Israel’s bombing campaign on the heavily populated Gaza Strip is causing massive civilian casualties and suffering. The people of Gaza are running out of water, food, medical supplies, and places of refuge,” Welby added.