A woman walks near a poster of Pope Francis upon his upcoming visit to Iraq, in Baghdad, Iraq March 4, 2021. REUTERS/Teba Sadiq

 – Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the Iranian missile attack on the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, and urged all parties to avoid an escalation of conflicts in the Middle East.

The strike has deepened worries about worsening instability across the Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out on Oct. 7, with Iran‘s allies also entering the fray from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

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“I express my closeness and solidarity with the victims, all civilians, of the missile attack that hit an urban area of Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan,” Francis said during his weekly audience at the Vatican.

“Good relations between neighbours are not built with similar actions, but with dialogue and collaboration. I ask everyone to avoid any step that fuels tension in the Middle East and other war scenarios,” he added.

Francis called for prayers for the “many victims of war”, mentioning specifically Ukraine, Gaza and other Palestinian territory, and Israel.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Angus MacSwan)