Christians praying for Israel and Gaza

A Palestinian walks through the rubble of the house of Issam Al Da'slees, top aide of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, GazaAP

Christians are praying that the fragile peace between Israel and Gaza will be a lasting one.

There were scenes of celebration in Gaza last night after a ceasefire brokered by Egypt brought an end to eight days of fighting that killed 162 Palestinians and five Israelis.

Pope Benedict XVI called upon both sides to "make courageous decisions in favour of peace".

He noted that any dispute between Israel and Gaza would have negative repurcussions throughout the entire Middle East.

"Along with my prayers for the victims and for those who suffer, it is my duty to emphasise once again that hatred and violence are not the solutions to these problems," he said.

The World Evangelical Alliance made an "urgent" appeal to its members to pray for the region.

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Reverend Olav Fykse Tveit, said that the loss of people's lives "in the eyes of God cannot be accepted as a price to be paid for the unresolved political problems and political agendas".

He called for an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza, but added that the continued rocket attacks by Gaza on Israeli civilians were "reprehensible" and would also have "very negative effects" at a time when Palestinians are seeking international support for their own state.

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