Pope deplores escalation of violence in Middle East, urges international community to act

VATICAN CITY (AFP) - Pope Francis on Friday (Oct 9) deplored the "escalation of violence affecting innocent civilians" in the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq, Jerusalem and the West Bank, and urged the international community to act.

Addressing a global Church summit on the family at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was praying for those caught up in conflicts across the region which "bring destruction and multiply people's suffering".

"We are following with great concern what is happening in Syria, Iraq, Jerusalem and the West Bank, where we are seeing an escalation of violence that involves innocent civilians and continues to fuel a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions," the Pope said.

He followed with an "urgent appeal to the international community to find a way to effectively assist the parties concerned and expand their horizons beyond their immediate interests".

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, where it is targeted by a United States-led air strike coalition.

What to do about war-torn Syria in particular has sparked a diplomatic crisis between the West and Russia.

Western nations are critical of Moscow's military intervention, accusing it of seeking to prop up President Bashar al-Assad rather than tackle ISIS militants operating there.

French President Francois Hollande warned Wednesday that a failure by the international community to act in Syria risked stoking a "total war" in the Middle East.

And in Israel and the West Bank, fresh unrest has sparked fears that a third Palestinian uprising, or intifada, could erupt.