Pope Francis’ top representative in the Middle East has offered himself to Hamas in exchange for children kidnapped by the terror group and held in Gaza.
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, made the suggestion during a video conference with journalists in Italy.
“I am ready for an exchange, for anything, if it can lead to freedom, to bring the children home,” he said Reuters. “No problem. I’m fully prepared.”
Pizzaballa even has a plan.
“The first thing you have to do is try to get the hostages released, otherwise there is no way to stop the escalation,” he continued. “We are ready to help, including me personally.”
He acknowledged that his office had not yet had direct contact with Hamas and said communication with the militant group was “very difficult.”
Around 200 people were taken hostage in Israel, including many children.
The cardinal oversees Roman Catholic activities in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Cyprus, where around 300,000 Catholics live.
Pizzaballa said about 1,000 Christians had taken refuge in church buildings in northern Gaza after their homes were destroyed in Israeli retaliatory attacks.
“They don’t know where to go because moving is dangerous,” he said.
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More than a million people have fled their homes, crowded into hospitals and schools, sought shelter and are running out of food and water amid an expected Israeli ground invasion.
Trucks carrying urgently needed aid have been waiting for days for news of a ceasefire that would allow them to enter Gaza and allow foreigners to leave.
Israel has urged Gazans to evacuate to the south, while Hamas scoffed at Israel’s warning and told residents to ignore the threat and stay put.
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