An Israeli airstrike hit the grounds of the historic Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza Metropolis, which was sheltering displaced folks, on Thursday evening, in keeping with church officers and witnesses.
The church compound, comprising a chapel, seven buildings and a courtyard, was filled with Christian households from the Gaza Strip, witnesses mentioned. They mentioned the airstrike occurred round 7:30 p.m., when dinner was being distributed.
Movies and pictures from the scene confirmed rescuers digging by way of rubble, working with flashlights late Thursday and into Friday. The chapel was not struck.
The Gazan well being ministry, which is managed by Hamas, mentioned not less than 16 folks have been killed and plenty of others have been nonetheless buried underneath rubble. The dying toll couldn’t be independently confirmed.
An announcement from the Israeli navy on Friday mentioned that the church was not the supposed goal of the airstrike. The fighter jets that carried out the assault have been making an attempt to destroy a Hamas command heart close to the church that the navy believes has been concerned in launching rockets and mortars towards Israel, the assertion mentioned.
“On account of the I.D.F. strike, a wall of a church within the space of the middle was broken,” the assertion mentioned, utilizing the initials of the Israel Protection Forces. “We’re conscious of experiences on casualties. The incident is underneath overview. The I.D.F. can unequivocally state that the church was not the goal of the strike.”
The church is a five-minute stroll from the Ahli Arab Hospital, the place an explosion on Tuesday evening killed and injured a whole lot of individuals. Hamas blamed the hospital explosion on an Israeli airstrike; Israel has countered that it was brought on by a malfunctioning rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The Israeli navy additionally mentioned on Thursday that it had performed dozens of strikes in opposition to Hamas targets within the Shajaiye neighborhood close to the church, calling the realm “a terrorist hotbed.” The centuries-old church is in an adjoining neighborhood.
The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned the airstrike as a battle crime.
“The Patriarchate emphasizes that concentrating on church buildings and their establishments, together with the shelters they supply to guard harmless residents, particularly youngsters and girls who’ve misplaced their properties attributable to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the previous 13 days, constitutes a battle crime that can’t be ignored,” the church mentioned in a press release.
Greece’s Overseas Ministry expressed “deep sorrow” over the strike. “The safety of civilians and the safety of locations of worship and spiritual establishments should be safeguarded and revered by all sides,” the ministry mentioned in a press release.
Ainara Tiefenthäler, Iyad Abuheweila and Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting.