Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Vatican’s representative in the Holy Land, on Monday offered himself in exchange for the children being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.
“If I am ready for an exchange?” he told reporters. “Anything, if this can lead to freedom and bring those children back home, no problem. On my part, absolute willingness.”
“The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping (an escalation). We are willing to help, even me personally,” he said.
He stressed, however, that he and his office had not yet had any direct contact with Hamas, the militant Islamist group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,300 people.
“You can’t talk to Hamas. It is very difficult,” he said.
About 200 people were taken hostage and about a dozen of them are believed to be children.
Pizzaballa oversees Roman Catholic activities in Israel and the Palestinian territories as well as Jordan and Cyprus, a region which is home to an estimated 300,000 Roman Catholics.
Diplomatic efforts have been intensifying to get aid into Gaza as Israel prepares a ground invasion to destroy Hamas.
As many as 200 people were taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7 when the terrorist group breached the border between Israel and Gaza, slaughtered at least 1,300 people who were mostly civilians, and snatched dozens of men, women, children and elderly.
Some of those hostages are disabled, others need medication and others are simply babies.
About a dozen of the hostages are children, Reuters reported. Foreigners are also being held.
Hamas said Monday that it would release hostages when the conditions allow, starting with foreign nationals. Israel has amassed troops on the border, preparing for an apparent ground assault, and ordered Gazans to evacuate to the south.
(Agencies; Picture Courtesy: AP)