VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI says he is praying for victims of the conflict between Israel and Gaza militants and gave his encouragement for efforts to obtain a cease-fire and negotiations.

He told his weekly public audience Wednesday that "hate and violence are not the solution for problems," receiving applause from pilgrims in the Paul VI auditorium.

Benedict called on both sides "to make courageous decisions in favor of peace" and end a conflict with "negative repercussions in the entire Middle East."