After reviewing the situation, the Israeli army has officially denied allegations made by Roman Catholic leaders of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem that an IDF sniper “murdered two women” on the grounds of a Catholic Church in Gaza City on Saturday.
Following inquiries by ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS, the IDF released a statement on Sunday night.
“Yesterday (Saturday), a letter from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was received describing a tragic incident that took place in the Holy Family Parish which is located in the Rimal area in the Gaza Strip. Yesterday morning (Saturday), representatives of the church contacted the IDF regarding explosions that were heard near the church.”
“During the dialogue between the IDF and representatives of the community, no reports of a hit on the church, nor civilians being injured or killed, were raised. A review of the IDF’s operational findings support this.”
However, the IDF added that an incident did occur in another area of Gaza City near a church located in Shejaiya, where some of the most intense fighting is taking place.
“When reviewing incidents that may have taken place in the vicinity of churches in Gaza, it was found that an incident took place during yesterday afternoon (Saturday) in another area in Gaza, near the Latin Church in the Shejayia area.”
“An initial review suggests that IDF troops, who were operating against Hamas terrorists in the area, operated against a threat that they identified in the area of the church. The IDF is conducting a thorough review of the incident.”
The Israeli stressed that it takes such claims “with the utmost seriousness — especially churches — considering that Christian communities are a minority group in the Middle East.”
“The IDF only targets terrorists and terror infrastructure and does not target civilians, no matter their religion. The IDF takes vast measures to avoid harm to uninvolved civilians, while fighting against a terrorist organization which does everything to put civilians at risk — including by using civilians and holy sites as human shields for its terror activities.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem under Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa released a statement including the serious accusation on Saturday.
“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… Nahida and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked to the Sister’s Convent. One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety,” he claimed.
“No warning was given, no notification was provided,” the statement continued. “They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents.”
Shortly after the claim was made, Editor-in-Chief Joel Rosenberg reported on ALL ARAB NEWS: “At least one Israeli government source tells me that it is not clear that the IDF was responsible and that it may very well have been Hamas terrorists who are responsible for these deaths and injuries.”
According to the Patriarchate, seven other Christians were wounded at the compound where many of Gaza’s Christian family have taken refuge amid the intense fighting in the area.
The claim was also addressed by Catholic Pope Francis the following Sunday.
“Unarmed civilians are targets for bombs and gunfire. And this has happened even within the parish complex of the Holy Family, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities, sisters,” he said during the weekly Angelus prayer.
“Some are saying, ‘This is terrorism and war.’ Yes, it is war, it is terrorism. That is why Scripture says that ‘God puts an end to war… the bow he breaks and the spear he snaps,’” the Pope continued. “Let us pray to the Lord for peace.”
ALL ARAB NEWS has been reporting on the fate of Gaza's last remaining Christians for some weeks now.
"To the best of my understanding, there are 590 Christians sheltering in the Catholic Church under the Latin Patriarchate in Gaza City," Rosenberg wrote in a recent news article.
"In the Greek Orthodox church, some 350 Christians are sheltering. At Deir El Balah, another 53 Christians are taking shelter. These 1,000 or so Christians need help and they need it now."
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.