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Pope Francis meets families of Israeli hostages

Pope Francis has met relatives of several Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in the 7 October attacks, the Vatican said.

The pontiff had previously met a group of relatives of hostages at the Vatican in November, the same day as meeting Palestinians who have family in Gaza.

Members of five Israeli families had a private audience with Pope Francis this morning, showing him posters of loved ones who were taken, including Ariel and Kfir Bibas, aged four and one respectively.

There were also relatives of hostages Tamir Nimrodi, 19, Guy Gilboa Dalal, 22, Agam Berger, 19, and Omri Miran, 46.

Ariel and Kfir Bibas were taken hostage, along with their mother, during the 7 October attacks

Speaking yesterday after delivering his weekly Angelus prayer at the Vatican, the pope repeated his call for peace.

“Let us always pray for peace, a just, lasting peace, in particular for martyred Ukraine and for Palestine and Israel,” he said.

“May the spirit of the risen Lord enlighten and support those who work to reduce tension and favour the gestures that make negotiations possible.”

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The Israelis were in Italy as part of a delegation that included Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

Mr Katz met his Italian counterpart, Antonio Tajani, yesterday, the six-month anniversary of Hamas attack in southern Israel.

The 7 October attack resulted in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants also took more than 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 the Israeli army says are dead.

In the six months since then, Israel’s retaliatory bombing and ground offensive have killed at least 33,207 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the the besieged Palestinian territory.

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