An Israeli air attack has tragically resulted in a large number of casualties among displaced individuals who had sought shelter at a church compound in Gaza. This devastating strike took place at the compound of the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church in Gaza City, as confirmed by the Gaza Strip’s interior ministry.
The Israeli military explained that their fighter jets had targeted a command-and-control center that was actively involved in launching rockets directed towards Israel. They acknowledged that a part of the church’s wall had sustained damage due to the strike and expressed awareness of reports regarding casualties. The incident is currently under review.
Eyewitnesses on the ground described the attack’s impact, noting damage to the church’s front and the collapse of an adjacent building. Many of the injured individuals were promptly evacuated to hospitals for medical attention.
Notably, the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church holds the distinction of being the oldest church in Gaza. Concerns had been expressed by a priest at the church, who had foreseen the possibility of it becoming a target, as it was providing refuge to both Muslims and Christians. The potential targeting of the church, as Father Elias had emphasized, would not only be an assault on religion but also a grave affront to humanity.
An affiliated group, the Order of Saint George, has issued a statement verifying the church’s destruction. The statement conveyed that Archbishop Alexios was reported for and alive, though information regarding his condition was not available. The fate of the more than 500 individuals being sheltered at the church and monastery, including the source of much of their information, remained uncertain.
It is with immense sadness that the statement reported the impact of the bombs on the two church halls where refugees, including children and infants, were seeking shelter. Presently, survivors are engaged in the task of searching through the debris for additional casualties. Their source at the scene estimated that 150-200 people may have lost their lives, and this number is anticipated to rise as further victims are discovered amidst the wreckage.
According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, since October 7, the ongoing conflict has claimed the lives of 3,000 people, with over 12,500 individuals sustaining injuries. On the Israeli side, more than 1,400 people lost their lives during the surprise attack initiated by Hamas on October 7 and the subsequent developments.