The head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land has issued an urgent call to both sides in the Israel/Palestine conflict to show restraint as tensions threaten to boil over into all-out hostility.
Patriarch Faoud Twal is the spiritual leader of Latin Catholics in both Palestine and Israel and is based in the Old City of Jerusalem, where much of the violence of recent weeks has occurred.
He said, "Once again, embers of despair, stirred by hatred, leave a heavy impact on this injured Holy Land... We cannot tolerate that hatred and bloodshed act as force of law on this Land with three holy religions."
Five Israelis were wounded in stabbing incidents on Wednesday in separate attacks in Jerusalem, Israel and the occupied West Bank. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 148 Palestinians were injured in the West Bank in various violent clashes with Israeli police.
This comes on the back of a renewed wave of violence which has seen the deaths of two Jewish Israelis in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank and the stabbing of two Israelis in Jerusalem. A Palestinian teenager was killed by the Israeli army in Hebron, while a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was shot by an Israeli military sniper in Bethlehem's Aida refugee camp – two of 24 Palestinians to be killed by the Israeli military in 2015 alone.
The spiritual leader continued his appeal for calm, "Heavily concerned with the more recent wave of violence which blows over Israel and Palestine, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemns the bloody incidents of these last days and the frightening escalation which they are likely to bring about. We send forth with force and insistence a call for calm."
The tension is so high that politicians have been banned from entering the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif – which is a significant move. It's thought that Ariel Sharon's tour of the area fanned the flames of the Second Intifada (or uprising). Some are already speaking of the increase in attacks by Palestinians and the violent response of occupying Israeli forces in the West Bank as the beginnings of a Third Intifada.
The Jordanian-born cleric continued, "The seriousness of the situation calls for all parties involved, Israelis and Palestinians, to show evidence of courage and to go back to the table of negotiations, which should run on solid and fair grounds, according to parameters of resolutions prescribed by the UN."
The Patriarch ended his statement with a plea for peace, "We urge with insistence for prayers by all faithful, for the sake of the Holy Land, its people, and for Jerusalem, City of Peace."