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Pope accuses Israelis, Palestinians of extremism

Pope John Paul yesterday condemned violence by both Israelis and Palestinians, saying people were being crushed by "two different extremisms" that were disfiguring the face of the Holy Land.

The Pope made his comments in an address to open a meeting of Catholic religious leaders from the Middle East, which he called to express his concern for the region.

"Unfortunately, we are meeting at a moment that I do not hesitate to define as dramatic, both for the people who live in those dear regions as well as for our brothers in the faith," he said.

"They, in fact, seem to be being crushed by two different extremisms, which, independent of the reasons that fuel them, are disfiguring the face of the Holy Land," he added.

The Pope, who visited the Holy Land last year, spoke after Israel severed ties with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and struck Palestinian targets in response to the killing by Palestinian militants of 10 Israelis on Wednesday.

He expressed sadness that the hopes for peace expressed during the jubilee year 2000 did not materialise.