WCC Head Urges End to Violence as Toll in Israel-Gaza Conflict Rises

(Photo Credit: Shareef Sarhan)Smoke rises over the city following Israeli air strikes in Gaza in a photo published on November 16 by the United Nations.

The head of the World Council of Churches called on violence from people in Israel and Gaza to cease to spare the lives of civilians as the death toll rises.

"This violence should stop immediately so that the lives of civilians, who are always the main victims, be spared," Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit said in a statement. "The loss of peoples' precious lives in the eyes of God, on both sides, cannot be accepted as a price to be paid for the unresolved political problems and political agendas.

Gaza health officials say that as of Sunday at least 69 people have died in the area, according to the BBC. Three Israelis civilians have died in the fighting and rocket attacks continued as of Sunday, according to AP.

Rev. Tveit also called for representatives in the UN Security Council and the Arab League to "take immediate resolutions and measures to put an end to the escalation of violence, in the interest of both parties."

On Sunday, an Israeli envoy was holding talks with Egyptian officials on a ceasefire in his country's offensive on Gaza as it widened its range of targets, according to the Associated Press.

Israel has struck more than a dozen homes of Hamas militants and two media officials, according to the report.

Hamas has linked a truce deal to a complete lifting of the border blockade on Gaza imposed since Islamists seized the territory by force, the report adds.

Rev. Tveit's statement touched on those tensions, and also referred to long-term efforts to establish peace in the region.

He restated the organization's view that the six-year blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel should end, saying there is an "unbearable humanitarian situation" facing the population in the Gaza strip.

He said Israel is accountable for the safety of all civilians in Gaza by international humanitarian law since it controls Gaza by land air and sea.

He also called the rocket attacks from Gaza into civilian communities in Israel "reprehensible and never justifiable."

He added that they "might also have very negative effects at a time when Palestinians are seeking international support of, and recognition by, the international community for a future viable and contiguous state."

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