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Airstrike Kills Christians At Gaza Church

by | Fri, Oct 20 2023

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A 900-year-old Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City which had been offering a safe refuge to around 500 Palestinian Christians and Muslims has been damaged by a deadly Israeli airstrike targeting an adjacent building.

Ibrahim Jahshan, a deacon at The Church of Saint Porphyrius, told The Washington Post that nine people had died and more than a dozen had been wounded by the strike. Gaza’s media office which is run by Hamas reported 18 Christian Palestinians had died.

The Order of St. George, an associated order of the church, said the strike impacted “two church halls where the refugees, including children and babies, were sleeping.”

Archbishop Alexios of Tiberias who survived the blast said: “They hit the offices and the entrance of the monastery. They were bombarded with a missile and the whole building collapsed. There were Christians inside, many of whom have been injured.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that a strike targeting a Hamas control center “damaged the wall of a church in the area,” and that it is “aware of reports of casualties” and is reviewing the incident.

Just a few days earlier, one of the church’s priests Father Elias had told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network that he couldn’t guarantee the church would escape the bombing. He added that he believed any strike on the church “would not only be an attack on religion, but also an attack on humanity. Our humanity calls us to offer peace and warmth to everyone in need.

Christian George Shabeen had declared that taking refuge in the church had saved his four children’s lives. Muslim Walaa Sobeh explained her family was receiving “enormous support from the priests and volunteers who worked tirelessly around the clock to help the displaced families. What eases our pain is the humble and warm spirit of everyone around.”

Saint Porphyrius which is the oldest church in Gaza was originally built between the 1150s and 1160s and named after the 5th-century bishop of Gaza, Saint Porphyrius. Al-Jazeera reports it has provided solace for generations of Palestinians in Gaza, especially in times of war, turmoil and fear.

Meanwhile, an unclassified US intelligence assessment delivered to the US Congress has estimated casualties in the explosion at the Anglican-run Al-Ahli Arab Hospital on the “low end” of 100 to 300 deaths. Hamas-run Gaza ministries had put the toll at 471.

The report echoed earlier assessments by US officials that the hospital blast was not caused by an Israeli airstrike as Hamas and its supporters claimed. Israel has presented detailed video, audio, photographic and other evidence which it says proves the explosion was caused by a rocket misfired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons