The Catholic Church's top representative in the Middle East has offered himself in exchange for the Israeli children taken hostage by the Hamas terrorist group, asserting that the safe return of the victims is crucial to ending the violence.
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa is the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, a position Pope Francis appointed him to in October 2020, after Pizzaballa served as apostolic administrator for four years.
Pizzaballa suggested the exchange during an online briefing with journalists Monday, stating that he is prepared to do "anything" to free the children seized by Hamas.
"I am ready for an exchange, anything, if this can lead to freedom, to bring the children home. No problem. There is total willingness on my part," he said, according to Reuters. "The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages."
Pizzaballa warned that if the hostages are not freed, there will be no way to prevent the violence from escalating. While he expressed a willingness to assist in de-escalation efforts, Pizzaballa admitted that he and his office have not had any direct contact with Hamas.
The terrorist group's attack on communities near the Gaza border in southern Israel on Oct. 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Israelis. At least 30 Americans have been confirmed as being among the dead.
Hamas also took nearly 200 people — ranging from 3 months old to 85 years — as hostages.
The cardinal also said that around 1,000 Christians are sheltering in church-affiliated buildings in Gaza following Israel's retaliatory airstrikes, stating that they're unsure where to go because moving is "dangerous," Catholic News Service reports.
In an interview last week with The Daily Wire, Pizzaballa condemned the attack against Israel as "horrific" and "barbaric" and expressed concern for the Christian community in Gaza.
Pizzaballa told the outlet that the war between Israel and Hamas will likely impact people of faith in Gaza. He also admitted that the whereabouts of many are currently unknown due to the present situation.
"We have no place for them to evacuate to on that side of the border, and for the many disabled, the elderly, we have no way to transport them even if we did have a place," he said. "So we are powerless in this moment."
The cardinal asserted, however, that Israel attempting to negotiate or engage in peaceful dialogue is not "realistic" at the moment.
"We have to stop the violence, the war, and then see what we can do, after the ruins of this war are in front of us," he said.
On Sunday, Israel Defense Forces released photos and videos of a large cache of weapons the Yalam unit seized from Hamas during a recent raid. The confiscated weapons included bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and more.
After seizing the weapons, members of the Yalam unit were responsible for neutralizing them. In addition to the weapons, the unit discovered hundreds of documents detailing attack orders on kibbutzim surrounding Gaza, which the IDF noted "emphasize Hamas's planning for a terrorist attack and atrocities against civilians and soldiers alike."
The commander of the Amalah Research Institute, identified as Major G, explained that Hamas used all of the uncovered weapons against innocent civilians when it launched its assault against Israel.
"No type of ammunition that we confiscated surprised us," Major G said. "What did surprise us was the quantity. This indicates, according to me, that the terrorists were preparing for a long stay and entrenched themselves in the settlements."
As the Foundation for Defense of Democracy's War Journal reported Sunday, the IDF recovered black explosive disks that resemble explosively formed penetrators.
The number of EFPs found during the raid suggests that Hamas has multiple factories for producing weapons, as "EFPs require a machine shop and technical and explosive expertise."
"EFPs have been used with deadly effect against U.S., British, and Iraqi forces in Iraq. Iraqi Shia militias such as Hezbollah Brigades, Asaib Ahl al Haq, and the Mahdi Army, killed hundreds of American soldiers with EFPs from 2003 to 2011," the report noted.
According to FDD, Hamas possessing EFPs and having factories to create them suggests that the terrorist group is receiving support from Hezbollah and Iran.
"As the IDF prepares for a likely ground offensive to root out Hamas and its allies, EFPs, landmines, rocket-propelled grenades, and other weapons pose a significant threat to Israeli armor and troops," the report written by FDD research analyst Joe Truzman and FDD senior fellow Bill Roggio concluded.