Pope Francis urged governments around the world on Sunday to protect civilians caught in armed conflicts and spare places of humanitarian importance like hospitals and schools. In conflicts from Syria to Libya, refugees, migrants and civilians are often bearing the brunt of the suffering.
"Let's not forget that war and terrorism are always a great defeat for the whole of humanity," the Pope said in his weekly Angelus blessing, calling on states to safeguard the life and dignity of the victims of the fighting. He was speaking on the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Convention, which set out standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in war.
"Everybody is bound to observe the rules imposed by international humanitarian law, protecting defenceless populations and civilian infrastructure, especially hospitals, schools, places of worship, refugee camps," Francis added. His appeal came as Syrian government forces seized ground from insurgents in northwestern Syria, in fresh violence which the United Nations has said threatens the lives of millions and could drive hundreds of thousands more civilians from their homes.
Panos Moumtzis, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said last week Syrian military airstrikes had targeted hospitals, schools, water points, markets, bakeries and other civilian infrastructure. Fresh conflict in Yemen's port city of Aden has set back U.N. efforts to end a more than four-year-old conflict which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
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