Pope Francis on Sunday condemned an Israeli attack on the only Catholic church in Gaza as “terrorism.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Catholic authority in the region, said Saturday that the Holy Family Church’s compound in Gaza City was under Israeli bombardment and that Israeli Defense Forces snipers killed two women on the grounds.
“A sniper of the IDF murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families have taken refuge since the start of the war,” the patriarchate said.
The two women, an elderly woman and her daughter, were shot and killed while walking to a nun convent on the grounds of the parish, and seven more people were wounded by gunfire. “No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents,” the patriarchate said.
The patriarchate said that earlier in the day, IDF tank fire targeted the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa on the parish grounds, where 54 disabled persons live. The Israeli attack destroyed the building’s generator, its only source of electricity, as well as its fuel and water resources. The tank fire left the home uninhabitable, and the 54 people who lived there “are currently displaced and without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive.”
According to Vatican News, Israelis have claimed a rocket launcher is present at the parish, but Catholic authorities say there are only unarmed civilians on the compound. Pope Francis said on the parish grounds there are “no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities, and nuns” and that in Gaza, “unarmed civilians are the targets of bombings and gunfire.”
The pope named the two Christian women who were killed, Nahida Khalil Anton and her daughter, Samar Kamal Anton. “Some say, ‘This is terrorism. This is war.’ Yes, it is war. It is terrorism,” he said. “That is why the Scripture affirms that ‘God stops wars… breaks the bow, splinters the spear’ (Psalm 46:10). Let us pray to the Lord for peace.”
Over 19,000 Palestinians, including over 7,500 children, have been killed by the Israeli onslaught in Gaza since it began on October 7 after the Hamas attack on southern Israel. Despite the massive civilian death toll, the US continues to support the slaughter in Gaza with unconditional military aid.