Oldest Orthodox church in Gaza damaged by ‘Israeli strike’ – church officials

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According to the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the oldest Christian church in Gaza was damaged in an Israeli airstrike on Thursday evening.

According to unconfirmed accounts from the scene, at least two persons were killed and many were buried beneath the wreckage of the nearby meeting hall. The Gaza media office afterwards reported that the death toll had risen to at least 18.

Officials issued a statement on Friday expressing their “strongest condemnation of the Israeli airstrike [on] its church compound in the city of Gaza,” and called the bombing of churches and the shelters they run “a war crime that cannot be ignored.”

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed “occupation warplanes” for the explosion, claiming that Israeli planes bombed the church in Gaza City’s Zaytoun neighbourhood. According to the ministry’s statement on X (previously Twitter), a mother and a girl were killed, and “dozens of people” were injured.

According to one of the parishioners, an unknown number of individuals remain under the rubble of the meeting hall, according to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Jordan on Facebook.

“No sufficiently accurate information is clearly available yet, but expectations are there will be a large number of martyrs,” the Archdiocese said in a statement.

“Archbishop Alexios appears to have been located and is alive, but we don’t know if he is injured,” the Orthodox Order of St. George said in a statement, adding that they have “no word on the condition of any other of the more than 500 people being housed at the church and monastery.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are investigating the event. The IDF has not responded, although it has repeatedly accused Hamas of using religious sanctuaries as cover for its agents.

St. Porphyrios is Gaza’s oldest operational church. Originally established in the 5th century to honour the namesake saint, the current structure was built during the Crusades in the mid-1100s and refurbished in the 1800s. It is situated near Gaza City’s southern outskirts.

According to conflicting reports from Gaza, up to 800 Palestinians were refuge within the church compound prior to the explosion. The location is around 250 metres from the Al-Ahli Hospital, where Palestinians said hundreds were killed or injured in an attack.