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Conflict rises as United States moves embassy

JERUSALEM (Agencies): “We need to pray more for peace and our conversion and for all,” Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarchate said in a statement as the United States of America (US), inaugurated its new embassy in Jerusalem amid violent protests between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers., La Croix reported. 
“The lives of so many young people have once again been shut down and hundreds of families are mourning their loved ones, dead or wounded,” said the statement. 
“We must condemn all forms of violence, any cynical use of human lives and disproportionate violence. Once again we are forced by circumstances to plead and cry out for justice and peace!” Archbishop Pizzaballa said.
The archbishop announced that on May 19, the eve of Pentecost, the Church would hold a prayer vigil at the Church of St. Stephen at L’Ecole Biblique.
International media reported that in Gaza, at least 58 people were killed, including five under the age of 18, and some 2,700 were injured as of May 15. The death toll was expected to rise. 
“Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict. Opening the American embassy without resolving the conflict is going to the extreme. They can resolve the conflict of Jerusalem and then do whatever they want,” Father Firas Aridah of  St. Joseph parish in Jifna, the West Bank, told CNS on May 14.
“But why just move the embassy to Jerusalem without resolving the conflict?” Father Aridah asked, as he tolled bells at noon to mourn those injured and killed in clashes, to lament the opening of the US embassy and mark the commemoration of the day Palestinians call al-Naqba (the 1948 Palestinian exodus), the day in 1948 when Israel declared independence and 250,000-300,000 Arabs living in the then-British mandate of Palestine were forced off their lands and homes.
Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and now feel that the US is no longer be a fair broker in the peace process with Israel.
Many Israelis see opening the embassy as the long-awaited official recognition of Jerusalem as their capital and the fulfillment of a promise made by numerous US presidents to move it from Tel Aviv.
Israel accused many of the protesters of being members of Hamas and of using Palestinians as pawns. 
Father Aridah said that although parishes in the Holy Land tell their parishioners to resist occupation by educating themselves and preparing for the future, people in Gaza see no future. 
“They don’t have anything to lose,” he said. “They are not living in dignity.”
Peace Now, the Israel-based group that advocates a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, lamented that moving the US embassy to Jerusalem only serves weaken the peace process and to reinforce the extreme positions on either side, AsiaNews reported.
“Our voice is critical especially when the leadership is celebrating the killing of the two state solution, when people are so depressed and don’t believe in the chances for peace we must raise our voice,” Hagit Ofran, head of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch team, was reported as saying.
Palestinian peace advocate, Adel Misk was reported by AsiaNews as saying, “It is not acceptable for Israel and the United States to do what they want.” 
In a statement released on May 14, Pax Christi International said the creation of the State of Israel and the Naqba “are forever interconnected. Pax Christi members and partners will once again stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially those who, after seven decades, remain refugees, as they mark this solemn anniversary,” said the statement. 
It called for the right of return and/or compensation for Palestinian refugees as a prerequisite for a just and fair Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, for which Pax Christi said an increased commitment from the international community is “urgently necessary.” 

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