They might be able to kill us. But we will continue to be together as Palestinians, dead and alive, Muslims and Christians.
Sobeh in Mohammed R Mhawesh’s Al Jazeera article
Late Thursday night, an Israeli strike targeted the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church in Gaza, killing at least 18 individuals and injuring at least 20, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health.
Since the start of Israeli aggression on Gaza, several displaced people had taken shelter in the church’s compound. The church is located in Gaza’s historic neighborhood and is the third oldest church in the world that is still in use.
The Saint Porphyrius Church is just meters away from Al-Ahli hospital which an Israeli strike targeted earlier this week, killing at least 500 people.
The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a condemnation of the strike at the church’s compound.
“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 13 days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored,” expressed the Patriarchate.
The strike caused devastation and consists of another war crime committed by Israeli forces, who have non-stop bombed Palestinian residential neighborhoods and civilians in the last two weeks and completely besieged Gaza.
In Gaza, there are around 1,000 Palestinian Christians remaining, and the targetting of the church incurred a huge loss on the community.
A Non-Religious War
Notably, many Palestinian Muslims have sought to take shelter in the church which became a sanctuary for those displaced by Israeli bombing all faiths.
In 2014, around 2,000 Palestinians fleeing Israeli bombings that had killed over 70 Palestinians took shelter in its room, corridors and adjoining buildings.
Three days before the bombing of the church, an Al Jazeera article highlighted the story of Walaa Sobeh whose house and (much of her) neighborhood were destroyed by an Israeli air raid. Sobeh sought shelter in Gaza’s oldest church, in addition to asking other relatives to make their way to the church too.
The article narrates how Sobeh didn’t only find sanctuary in the church, but also a feeling of belonging to “one family”.
It is not the first time that occupation forces have targeted places of sanctuary, as Israeli bombing has also hit several mosques and schools sheltering people whose houses were blown up.
The Israeli occupation and their genocidal campaign’s targeting of a Christian religious site should come as no surprise to those following the events, as it is a campaign that is indiscriminate vis-à-vis Palestinian lives.