The Acting Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas says Israel is forcing both Muslims and Christians out of East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
“We have informed his holiness about the tragic situation in … [East al-Quds]… where Israel is systematically acting to change its identity and character, and strangling the Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims, with the aim of pushing them out,” Abbas said.
For his part, the Catholic Church leader said time is now ripe to end the increasingly unacceptable conflict in the Middle East.
The Pope’s visit to Bethlehem is part of his two-day tour of the Palestinian territories. He made an unscheduled stop at the separation barrier built by Israel in the city.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have arrested at least 26 people protesting the Pope’s visit to al-Quds.
Israel is facing mounting pressure to rein in a spiraling wave of hate crimes by Israelis, which has been on the rise ahead of the papal visit – mainly in the form of vandalism and graffiti – targeting churches.
The Pope began his tour to the Middle East by visiting Jordan earlier on Saturday.It is Francis’ first visit to the Middle East region since he became pontiff.