Pope Francis has called for humanitarian corridors to help those under siege in Gaza and renewed his appeal for the release of hostages held by militant Islamist group Hamas.
Francis spoke as Israel was readying its troops for a ground assault in retaliation for unprecedented attacks it suffered when fighters rampaged through its towns shooting men, women and children and seizing hostages.
After his weekly Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square, the pontiff also called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the Middle East to be held on Tuesday (October 17).
"I renew my call for the release of the hostages and I strongly demand that children, the sick, the elderly, women and all civilians do not fall victim to the conflict. I call for humanitarian law to be respected, especially in Gaza where there is an urgent need to guarantee humanitarian corridors and to rescue the entire population.
"Brothers and sisters, so many people have already died. Please do not spill any more innocent blood, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine or anywhere else. No more. Wars are always a defeat, always. Prayer is the mild and holy force to oppose the diabolical force of hatred, terrorism, and war."
Some 1,300 people were killed in the unexpected onslaught, while Gaza authorities said more than 2,300 people had died, a quarter of them children, and nearly 10,000 wounded as Israel responds with intense bombardment to the aggression.
Francis also asked to respect monasteries and religious sites in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, where Azerbaijan restored control last month with a 24-hour military operation which triggered the exodus of most of the territory's 120,000 ethnic Armenians to Armenia.
"Besides the serious humanitarian situation of the displaced people, I would also like to make a special appeal for the protection of the monasteries and places of worship in the region", Pope Francis said.
"I hope that they can be respected and protected by the authorities and all the inhabitants as part of the local culture, an expression of faith, a sign of a fraternity that makes it possible to live together in differences."