Jerusalem Patriarchate says Gaza church was hit by Israeli air strike

Jerusalem Patriarchate says Gaza church was hit by Israeli air strike

A Greek Orthodox church in the Gaza Strip which was sheltering hundreds of displaced Palestinians was hit overnight by an Israeli air strike, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said, and Palestinian health officials said 18 people were killed.

Earlier, speaking to Greek broadcaster SKAI, Metropolitan Alexios of Gaza, abbot of the Monastery of St Porphyrius, gave the same number of victims.

The Israeli military said a part of the church was damaged in a strike on a militant command centre and it was reviewing the incident.

Palestinian officials said at least 500 Muslims and Christians had taken shelter in the Greek Orthodox Church of St Porphyrius from Israeli bombardments.

The Church said in a statement: “The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem expresses its strongest condemnation of the Israeli air strike that has struck its church compound in the city of Gaza.

“The Patriarchate emphasizes that targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored.”

Video from the scene at the church compound showed a wounded boy being carried from the rubble in the dark of the night. A civil defence worker said two people on upper floors had survived. Those on lower floors had been killed and were still in the rubble, the worker said.

Gaza’s 2.3 million population comprises an estimated 1,000 Christians, most of whom are Greek Orthodox.

The Israeli military said its fighter jets had hit a nearby command and control centre that was used to carry out attacks against Israel.

“As a result of the IDF strike, a wall of a church in the area was damaged. We are aware of reports on casualties. The incident is under review,” it said.

Israel has pounded densely-populated Gaza, flattening buildings and destroying infrastructure, since Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7 and killed 1,400 people.

More than 4,100 people in Gaza have since been killed by Israeli strikes and more than a million have been made homeless, according to Palestinian health officials. Civilians say their situation is desperate as they run short of food, water, fuel and medical supplies.

The Greek Foreign Ministry expressed its dismay over the casualties caused by the explosion. [Reuters, Kathimerini]

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