Hostage families rebuke journalists’ ‘false equivalence’ between Israel, Hamas at Vatican press conference #Hostage #families #rebuke #journalists #false #equivalence #Israel #Hamas #Vatican #press #conference

The Vatican press room was the scene of a sharp back-and-forth between the families of Israeli hostages and the press after a meeting with Pope Francis.

The loved ones of hostages being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip met Wednesday with Pope Francis at the Vatican following the pontiff’s general audience.

“Here we’ve gone beyond war. This isn’t war anymore, this is terrorism,” Pope Francis told the crowd ahead of the meeting. “Please, let us go ahead with peace. Pray for peace, pray a lot for peace.”

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vATICAN MEETING ISRAELI HOSTAGE FAMILIES

Pope Francis meets a delegation of Israelis who have relatives held hostage in Gaza, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

Tensions became heightened when a reporter quoted Pope Francis’ remarks, telling the families at the press conference, “So [Pope Francis] was equivocating. He didn’t say one side was practicing terrorism. He obviously implied that both sides were.” 

The reporter then asked the families for comment.

One family member, identifying himself as Adam, replied sharply to the reporter’s claim that Pope Francis was “equivocating” between Israel and Hamas.

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Pope meets Israeli family hostages

Addressing the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis turned his thoughts to those suffering in Gaza and Israel. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

“I wanted to say that what you alluded to, that both sides are doing acts of terrorism, is a false equivalence,” Adam said. “Hamas and the terrorists attacked innocent people. Children were taken. Children were killed. Women were raped in a party.”

He continued, “Israel is attacking Hamas and there are casualties. And these are very unfortunate, but they are happening because Hamas is using their civilians, the Gazans, as human shields. We saw just some time ago that the Israeli army are the ones who managed to let the Gazan citizens leave and move to a safe space. So these are what you’re making into a false equivalence.”

“Regarding the meeting with the pope, I felt that he was very compassionate, and he listens to us, and he understood our sorrow,” Adam concluded. “And he told us that […] he’s acting to make sure that they will return.”

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Pope Francis Gaza

Pope Francis meets a delegation of families of Palestinians who are suffering in Gaza at the studio of Paul VI Hall in Vatican City. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

The reporter followed up, saying he was not attempting to draw an equivalence between Israel and Hamas, but claiming Pope Francis did in the general audience.

“So you are saying pope is making false equivalence, is that correct?” the reporter asked.

“In our meeting the pope did not say both [Israel and Hamas],” Adam replied once again. “From what I understood, he talked about our families being hostages as an act of terrorism. I did not get the feeling that he said that Israel is committing any type of acts of terrorism.”

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Pope Palestine

Pope Francis lamented the ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East and urged an immediate, permanent end to the violence. (Vatican Media via Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

“About the comparison between what they reported, just as before, I don’t recall that the pope said that both sides are doing acts that are terror,” another Israeli panelist said. 

He continued, “I felt he said that about what Hamas said. He said, ‘This is more than war, this is terror.’ And he didn’t say that what Israel is doing is terror. This is what I remember from the conversation.”

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Alexandra Ariev, whose 19-year-old sister Karina, an IDF soldier, is among the captives, described Francis’ time as “precious.”

She added, “We are very grateful and thankful for him listening to us, and we are sure that he has done things before the meeting, and he is doing currently, and he will do in the future things that will help us and our families.”

Francis also met separately with relatives of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel,.

Fox News Digital’s Greg Norman contributed to this report.

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