Messi issues statement to protect children of Gaza
Argentinean star Lionel Messi issued a statement on Thursday on his official Facebook page asking for protection for children harmed by the military conflict in Gaza and for an end to the violence.
"As a father and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, I am terribly saddened by the images coming from the conflict between Israel and Palestine, where violence has already claimed so many young lives and injured countless children," read the statement published in Arabic and English.
"Children did not create this conflict, but they are paying the ultimate price. This cycle of senseless violence must stop. We must reflect on the consequences of military conflicts and children must be protected," he added.
The four-time world player of the year also posted a photo of a Palestinian child who was allegedly injured during an attack on a school in Gaza.
The post received more than 10,000 comments in less than three hours, some in support of Palestine and others for Israel.
The 27-year old Barcelona wizard has previously come under fire in the Middle East for allegedly supporting Israel as he visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem and met with Israeli leaders during Barcelona's "Peace tour" in summer 2013.
During the month-long Israeli offensive on Gaza,1,875 Palestinians have been killed and over 10,000 injured. On its side, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have also been killed.