“At the end of the year, we will have the courage to ask ourselves how many human lives have been shattered by armed conflict, how many dead and how much destruction, how much suffering, how much poverty,” the pontiff said.
In Russia, the country’s military actions in Ukraine have overshadowed end-of-year celebrations, with the usual fireworks and concert on Moscow’s Red Square canceled, as they were last year. Even without the festivities, people gathered in the square and some cheered and pointed their phones at a clock counting down the year’s final seconds.
After shelling in the Russian border city of Belgorod on Saturday killed 24 people, some local authorities across Russia also canceled their usual firework displays, including in Vladivostok. Millions were expected to tune in to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s New Year’s prerecorded address, where he asserted no force that could divide Russians and stop the country’s development.
Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip have killed at least 35 people Sunday, hospital officials said, as fighting raged across the tiny enclave a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the war will continue for “many more months,” resisting international calls for a cease-fire.
Skyscrapers in Tel Aviv were lit up in yellow to call for the release of hostages held by Palestinian militants in Gaza for more than 80 days.
“While you are counting down until the new year, our time and our lives stopped,” said Moran Betzer Tayar, the aunt of Yagev Buchshtab, a 34-year-old hostage.
In the Gaza Strip, displaced Palestinians huddled around fires in a makeshift refugee camp.
“From the intensity of the pain we live, we do not feel that there is a new year,” said Kamal al-Zeinaty, who has lost multiple family members in the conflict. “All the days are the same.”
In Iraq, a Christmas tree was decorated with Palestinian flags and symbolic bodies in funeral shrouds, placed beside a liberty monument in central Baghdad. Many Christians in Iraq have cancelled this year’s festivities in solidarity with Gaza, and have chosen to limit their celebrations to prayers and rituals.
“We hope that the new year, 2024 will be a year of goodness, prosperity, and joy,” said Ahmed Ali, a Baghdad resident.