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Pope calls for free access to Jerusalem holy sites

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Pope Francis on Sunday called for free access to the holy sites in Jerusalem as he delivered his annual Easter address amid simmering violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy City.

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“May there be peace for the Middle East, racked by years of conflict and division. On this glorious day, let us ask for peace upon Jerusalem and peace upon all those who love her, Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

“May Israelis, Palestinians and all who dwell in the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, experience the beauty of peace, dwell in fraternity and enjoy free access to the Holy Places in mutual respect for the rights of each,” he said.

Clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and Israeli police wounded ten protesters on Sunday morning in and around Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the site of major clashes two days earlier, police said.

The latest tensions in Jerusalem come as all three Abrahamic faiths mark major festivals: Jewish Passover, Christian Easter and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Weeks of mounting tensions saw two deadly attacks by Palestinians in or near the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv in late March and early April, alongside mass arrests by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank.

Read more:

Israel police enter flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, arrest two

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Clashes erupt at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, at least 152 injured

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