Pope John Paul II launched a new appeal to end the bloodshed in the Middle East. He urged the international community to help Israelis and Palestinians find a way to resolve the conflict.

Pope John Paul called once again for peace in the Middle East at his regular weekly general audience, attended Wednesday by some 8,000 people.

"I feel the need," the Pope said, "to express my sincere condolences for the victims of the absurd violence, which continues to bloody the Middle East."

Pope John Paul urged Israelis and the Palestinians "to break free of this useless spiral of death," adding that "violence never resolves conflicts but only increases the dramatic consequences."

He also urged the international community to use "ever greater determination and courage" to help the two sides end the violence and resume immediate peace negotiations so that "the much-desired peace can finally be reached."

The Pope's latest appeal follows two days of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza in retaliation for suicide bombings that left 25 people dead in Israel Saturday and Sunday.

A prayer vigil for the victims of the suicide bombings was held Tuesday night at the Rome synagogue and was attended by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. Berlusconi told the congregation, "I am here as a father and share the anguish, suffering, grief and pain of so many fathers, mothers and families."

The Italian government leader said he had come to the synagogue to reiterate his "condemnation of all types of barbarity, all types of terrorism, all ideologies of death, which represent the opposite of everything we believe in."

Prime Minister Berlusconi repeated the Italian government's will to "operate concretely to find a light, a solution to maintain alive the hope of building a true and lasting peace" in the Middle East.