Christians Under OccupationNews

They are not just numbers; they are humans like any other people in the world. Each one of them has a story, a family, and a dream

The situation for the Christian residents of Gaza is no longer the same. Those who sought refuge in the Church of Saint Porphyrius from the Israeli missiles that targeted their homes, shattering their dreams of a peaceful and secure life, are no longer safe. Like many others in the grieving Gaza Strip, 382 Palestinian Christians left their homes, seeking a safe haven. Approximately 500 more sought refuge in the Latin Church in the same neighborhood, thinking they would be safe from the crimes of Israeli occupation. In their awareness, international law, which Palestinians have always believed in, protects churches from any military attack during times of war. However, this did not hold true for Gaza, nor did it during the siege of the Church of the Nativity years ago.

‏Families dispersed across various facilities within the church premises, including Sunday schools and adjacent halls. Tragically, around 8:30 PM on Thursday night, October 19, 2023, the Israeli military targeted a nearby abandoned building, causing a complete collapse at the entrances of the church and the adjacent premises where the displaced had sought refuge. This aggression claimed the lives of 17 martyrs and left many others injured. These are not just numbers; each one of them had a story, a tale, a dream, and plans for their future. Entire families were wiped off civil records, children found lifeless under the rubble, and a baby, not yet 4 months old, was found lifeless in the arms of her grandmother, who also perished.

‏In the crucial and heart-wrenching moments after the Israeli bombing, the most difficult task was searching for bodies and survivors under the debris in the dark darkness due to deliberate power outages imposed by the Israeli occupation on the entire Gaza Strip. The church residents, priests, and fathers had no choice but to search for the victims using the light of mobile phones. Their voices echoed, calling out the names of those they thought might still be alive under the rubble. One cried, ‘Yasmin!’ Another called out, ‘Grandma, if you can hear me, respond!’ A grieving mother wept and screamed her daughter’s name, who had not yet reached 4 months of age.

‏At the same time, Palestinian Christian families who had moved to the West Bank to escape previous wars lived in fear, exchanging numerous names through social media networks. Each one of them wanted to ensure the safety of their parents, siblings, and friends. Many were unable to bid a final farewell due to the harsh blockade and the geographical division between the West Bank and Gaza. A sister left a kiss on her sister’s forehead as she departed with her child. There were many critical and severe injuries; one was a young woman who had hoped, before the war, to start preparations for her wedding, a dream now shattered.

‏Ramez Al-Souri lost his three children, bidding them farewell with heart-wrenching words: ‘My daughter was like the moon, so beautiful; they killed her.’ Ramez also lost his cousins and their wives from the Amash family: Abdul Nour and his family, Tariq and his family, and Sabahi, who suffered severe leg injuries. Due to the shortage of medical resources and the unavailability of proper treatment, doctors expect that there might be a need to amputate one of her legs. The Tarazi family lost one of their beloved educators, Eileen. Mireille and Attallah mourned the loss of their daughter Samah, just 4 months old, and her grandparents in this bombing. The last person found the next morning was the dentist Suleiman Tarazi; his wife couldn’t bid him farewell due to a severe spinal injury. His children also couldn’t say goodbye due to the overwhelming fear that engulfed them, depriving them of a stable life amidst a loving and caring family. Many more injuries remain in hospitals, some in critical condition.

‏The bombing didn’t stop at targeting the displaced who Israel forced out of their homes. The church was threatened with evacuation three times, forcing the survivors to move south. Israel also destroyed all the storerooms where the church had stored water, food, grains, and canned goods, eliminating any means of resilience the church tried to provide. Israel compelled the displaced to leave, as if intentionally trying to empty Gaza of its remaining Palestinian Christians.

‏There is no safe place in Gaza. Every corner of Gaza is a target for the Israeli occupation and its aircraft. The church, which opened its doors to protect both Muslim and Christian displaced individuals, offering them services and refusing to evacuate them, has been targeted. Israel showed no regard for the lives of the innocent. It has proven to the silent world that Israel and its leaders consider themselves above international laws, remaining unaccountable and unprosecuted despite the ongoing humanitarian disaster and the genocide being committed against the entire Palestinian people.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email