Churches condemn air strike on Greek Orthodox building in Gaza

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Attack on St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church leaves 17 Christians dead

At least 17 Christians, including 10 members of a single family, were tragically killed in Gaza on Thursday evening during an air attack on the St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church. The building, which was affiliated with the historic church, collapsed following Israeli missile strikes, as confirmed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

This deadly incident occurred within the compound of one of Gaza's oldest churches, where approximately 400 individuals had sought shelter since the start of the war nearly two weeks ago. The Israeli Defense Forces have admitted to bombing a Hamas command and control center, stating that the church was not the intended target.

Despite this claim, the blast caused numerous injuries, some severe, among the refugees comprised of Christians and Muslim families who were taking shelter in the church adjacent to the destroyed building that was not directly hit.

Tragically, the victims of this attack also include several young Christians who participated in the "Employment Generation Project" run by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, according to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Located just a few hundred meters away from the Holy Family Catholic Church, where a further 500 Christians have sought refuge, the building's destruction has forced many families from the Greek Orthodox compound to relocate, despite the Holy Family church already being at capacity. ACN sources also reported that the Catholic compound was hit by stun bombs on the same evening.

Both the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the World Council of Churches (WCC) have vehemently condemned the attack, labeling it a war crime that should not be overlooked. In a strongly-worded statement, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate emphasized that targeting churches and their affiliated institutions, which offer shelter to innocent civilians, particularly those who have lost their homes due to Israeli bombings, cannot be justified.

Churches condemn air strike on Greek Orthodox building in Gaza 1

The WCC echoed these sentiments and called upon the international community to ensure the protection of sanctuaries in Gaza, including hospitals, schools, and houses of worship. Rev. Jerry Pillay, the WCC general secretary, expressed condolences to Patriarch Theophilos II and all the Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ, while urging for immediate action to prevent further harm.

This devastating incident highlights the urgent need for measures to safeguard vulnerable populations and their places of refuge in conflict zones, reinforcing the importance of respect for human life and religious freedoms.

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