14 May 2009

Pope offers suport for Palestinian state

7:49 am on 14 May 2009

Pope Benedict has offered his support for the Palestinians' right to a homeland, on a visit to the Middle East.

Speaking in a Bethelehem refugee camp, he said he understood frustrations that their "legitimate aspirations" for a Palestinian state are unfulfilled.

The pontiff said the fortified Israeli wall dividing Bethlehem and Jerusalem could be taken down, if Israel and the Palestinians could remove the walls around their hearts.

He said while walls can easily be built, they do not last forever and can be taken down.

Pope Benedict described the wall as a towering symbol of deadlock in the struggle for peace and a stark reminder of the stalemate that relations between Palestinians and Israelis seemed to have reached.

He said his heart went out to those caught up in the conflict in Gaza.

Recycled rubble used for repairs

The Red Cross says it's repairing a water treatment plant in the Gaza Strip using recycled rubble from a destroyed border wall with Egypt.

It says engineers were obliged to come up with creative solutions in light of an Israeli ban on shipments of building materials to Gaza.

A Red Cross official says said it should not be so difficult to work on vital projects and Israel should allow cement, steel and pipes into Gaza.

Israel refuses to do so, saying they could be used by Palestinian militants for military purposes.