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Israel and Iran urged, for the world’s sake, not to escalate war

17 April 2024

Archbishop of Canterbury: Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel ‘wrong’


The Israeli Iron Dome air-defense system, in central Israel, launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran on Sunday

The Israeli Iron Dome air-defense system, in central Israel, launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran on Sunday

CHURCH leaders have joined others in calling for restraint by Israel and Iran in their use of arms. Further threats after Sunday’s drone attack risked broadening the conflict in the Middle East, they said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, writing on social media on Monday, said that Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel on Sunday had been “wrong”.

“They risked civilian lives and they escalated the already dangerous tensions in the region. I pray for the peace and security of Israel’s people at this time and I appeal to all parties both for restraint and to act for peace and mutual security.”

More than 300 missiles and drones were fired from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, in what Iran described as retaliation for Israel’s attack on the Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus on 1 April, in which a senior general and at least 12 others were killed. Other countries, including Jordan, a critic of Israel’s Gaza war, helped to destroy the weapons before they reached their target.

Iran said that its attack was legitimate self-defence. Israel vowed to retaliate.

Pope Francis also appealed for a halt to the “spiral of violence”. All nations should “take the side of peace” and help Israelis and Palestinians to live in two states, side by side, in security, he said. “It is their deep and legitimate desire, and it is their right! Two neighbouring states.”

The World Council of Churches (WCC) called on Israel and Iran to “serve the interests of peace, people, and planet instead of pride and retaliation”. It issued a series of calls, to the United States and other governments, to act as “agents of good will”. The WCC repeated its appeal for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, and the freeing of detainees and hostages.

Quaker organisations in the UK and US also called for an immediate end to the fighting, and for “unrestrained” humanitarian access in Gaza. To realise peace, past and continuing injustices must be addressed, they said.

Although Israel was told by the US President, Joe Biden, to “take the win” and not retaliate, its war cabinet was continuing on Wednesday to debate its response to Iran’s attack. The US and the EU were considering imposing sanctions on Iran.

The Foreign Secretary, Lord Cameron, visiting Israel on Wednesday, said that it was clear that Israel was preparing to act, but he hoped that “they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible”.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, shared an update from the Anglican al-Ahli Hospital, in northern Gaza, this week, where, just over six months ago, he was praying with staff. “I was in this Chapel of St Philip on 4th October praying with the staff, not knowing what horrors would lie ahead,” he posted on X.

“Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who care for the sick and injured.”

Fuel was delivered to the hospital by the World Health Organization this week. It was overflowing with patients: makeshifts beds had been put up in the chapel and library. Many patients were in a critical condition, with amputations and severe trauma injuries, and required treatment in specialist facilities, doctors reported.

Read more on this story in Paul Vallely’s column

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