Two Christian women, a mother and her daughter, were fatally shot by an Israeli soldier on the grounds of the Holy Family Parish, as reported by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
A Sanctuary Turned Battleground
The Holy Family Parish, a haven for Christian families since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, became the site of a tragic event.
According to the patriarchate's statement on Saturday, "Around noon [10:00 GMT] today … a sniper" of the Israeli army "murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza."The victims, Nahida and her daughter Samar, were shot as they were walking to the Sister’s Convent.
The statement poignantly noted that "One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety”.
The patriarchate emphasized the unexpected nature of the attack, stating that no warning was given and describing the shooting as happening "in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents."In addition to the tragic loss of Nahida and Samar, seven more people were wounded by gunfire in their attempt to protect others.
This morning Israeli snipers shot and killed my two family friends in an attack on the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza.
Nahida (Um Emad Anton) and Samar, mother and daughter, were walking to the Sisters’ Convent to use the only bathroom.
One was killed as she tried to… pic.twitter.com/ZtTxgsDrVf — Hammam Farah (@hammam_therapy) December 17, 2023
Devastation Amidst Religious Refuge
The church has faced direct bombardment in recent days, as reported by Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud from Rafah in southern Gaza.
"Major parts of it have been destroyed. Snipers are shooting at every moving object in the yard,” he added.This attack not only impacts the individuals but also the broader Christian community in Gaza. Furthermore, the patriarchate reported that three projectiles fired by an Israeli tank struck a convent of the Sisters of Mother Teresa charity.
This attack destroyed vital resources and facilities, rendering a building housing 54 disabled people uninhabitable and leaving them without access to necessary medical equipment like respirators.
A Community at the Brink
The Christian community in Gaza, one of the oldest in the Middle East, has faced significant challenges and dwindling numbers in recent years.
Today, approximately 1,000 Christians remain in Gaza, a stark decrease from the 3,000 in 2007. Kamel Ayyad, a spokesperson for the Church of Saint Porphyrius, noted that the Israeli blockade and various socio-economic hardships have accelerated the exodus of Christians from Gaza.