Pope Laments Death of Israeli Youths

VALLETTA, Malta, MAY 9, 2001 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II was visibly moved this morning when he received the news of the stoning to death of two 14-year-old Israelis.

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«Again today, we hear painful news from the Holy Land of terrible violence even against innocent youths,» the Holy Father said during his visit to Malta. «We must all intensify our prayer for peace in the land of Jesus.»

The two teen-agers lived in the Jewish settlement of Tekoa, near the autonomous Palestinian city of Bethlehem, in the West Bank. They had gone out for a walk Tuesday afternoon. On Monday a 4-month-old Palestinian girl died in an Israeli army attack in a refugee camp in the Gaza strip.

Israeli security sources said the teens´ bodies showed brutal signs of violence. It appears that they were stoned to death — Israeli sources say that one or more Palestinians or other Arabs were involved in the attack. The same sources said the attack was not premeditated.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon described the killing as a «new escalation of terrorism,» while the Palestinian Authority condemned the death of civilians on both sides.

About 450 Palestinians and 75 Israelis have died in the current, seven-month-long wave of Mideast violence.

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