Churches have become the latest victim of the indiscriminate Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, leaving no safe place for the besieged Gaza population.
Twenty Palestinians, including 18 Christians, were killed in an Israeli airstrike Oct. 19 on a building near the St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in the south of Gaza City, according to the Hamas-run government media office in Gaza and other local sources.
The shelling brought down one of the buildings in the church’s complex where hundreds of displaced have been sheltered since Israel ordered more than 1 million people to move from Gaza’s northern part to the south ahead of its planned ground invasion.
Father Youssef Asaad of the Catholic Holy Family Church, located a few meters away from St. Porphyrius, told Al-Monitor that the Israeli missile fell between the church’s service provision building and a nearby abandoned building, which led to the collapse of the service provision building on the people hiding inside the church. He said 20 people were killed, including 18 Christians who were mostly from a single family, while they were sleeping.
Many other displaced suffered from severe and mild injuries, and other buildings in the church complex were cracked and damaged beyond repair, he lamented.
Asaad added that the Israeli missile left a massive hole in the church’s floor and surrounding area, which required moving the 400 displaced people sheltered inside to the Holy Family Church.
“Although they were relocated, the people are still not safe because of the ongoing airstrikes on Gaza that are targeting everything in their way,” Asaad warned.
Saint Porphyrius Church’s media officer Philip Jahshan, who was present at the church at the time of the attack, confirmed to Al-Monitor that the raid directly targeted the church’s service provision building, causing its full destruction.
The Israeli army said it struck a Hamas command center in the vicinity of the church. But eyewitnesses who spoke to Al-Monitor stressed that the building the Israeli army was referring to is abandoned and that no one was there at the time of the attack.
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