ESCALATING tensions between Iran and the United States have led to a missile bombardment across the Iraqi border, striking two US airbases at Al Asad and Erbil.
It is as yet unknown if there have been any casualties.
Iranian state television confirmed the launch of “tens” of surface-to-surface missiles and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps claimed responsibility for the attack in a telegram, according to the New York Times.
The missile strike, launched at 1:30am local time in Iraq, came as “revenge” for the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport last week.
Pope Francis led pilgrims in prayers for peace and greater dialogue at St Peter’s Square on January 5.
“War only brings death and destruction,” he said.
“I call on all parties to keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-control and avoid the shadow of enmity.”
On Twitter the Pontiff told Catholics to ask for the gift of peace.
About 50 people were crushed to death in overwhelming crowds at the slain general’s funeral procession only a day before the missile retaliation.
In the midst of the unprecedented violence across the Iranian border, US President Donald Trump tweeted, “All is well!”
“Missiles launched from Iran at two military bases located in Iraq,” he said in a tweet.
“Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now.
“So far, so good! We have the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world, by far!”
US Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Jose Gomez called on Catholics to join in prayer and intercession from Mother Mary for peace.
He prayed her intercession to Jesus Christ might “strengthen the peacemakers, comfort the suffering, and protect the innocent and all those in harm’s way, especially the men & women in our military & diplomatic service”.
“In the face of the escalating tensions with Iran, we must pray urgently that our world’s leaders will pursue dialogue and seek peace,” he said.
Catholic voluntary organisation SOS Chretiens d’Orient warned in a statement on Facebook the current tensions could bring about more radicalisation.
“The Middle East is now prey to demons it has known for too long,” the statement read.
“The outbreak of violence could succeed and even revive the radicalisation and division of the region in the context of Islamic terrorism.
“Contempt for the sovereignty of nations, the impunity of international law and the use of the sectarian tearing serve those who thrive in violence.
“SOS Chrétiens d’Orient call on everyone to pray that the region does not ignite, which would cause a new and fatal exile of Eastern Christian communities.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all Australian troops and diplomatic staff serving in Iraq were safe.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese revealed Australian troops were located “just next door” to the assailed air bases.
At present, it is unclear what the US response to the air strikes would be.
President Trump is set to make an address tomorrow morning, US time.
On Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran did not seek “escalation or war”, but would defend itself against any aggression.