VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Sunday called for a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas and renewed an appeal for the release of hostages held by the militant group in Gaza.

"Let no-one abandon the possibility of stopping the weapons," he said at his weekly blessing in St. Peter's Square.

"Ceasefire ... we say 'ceasefire, ceasefire'. Brothers and sisters, stop! War is always a defeat, always," he added.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Alexander Smith)