The Israeli occupation is embarking on a true genocide against the minority Christian population in the Gaza Strip, which reportedly does not exceed 1,000 people.
The reported injuries and deaths from the attack on the church are in the dozens, with entire families going missing beneath the rubble, which highlights Israeli brutality and shows that “Tel Aviv” is not looking to target the Palestinian Resistance, as per its claims, but instead is indiscriminately targeting civilians left and right, of course without any international accountability.
The Israeli occupation on Thursday bombed a church that has been standing for far longer than itself as an entity. A 1,700-year-old church, one of the oldest in the region, was shelled in a war crime that not only targeted a religious building; but also a sanctuary where civilian refugees were hiding.
The Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Porphyrius did not discriminate on the basis of religion, allowing hundreds of people of all sects to seek refuge within its thought-to-be-safe walls. It also showed that the Israeli occupation itself does not discriminate either, as it killed the people of Gaza regardless of their beliefs. The senseless occupation has long been targeting residential buildings indiscriminately, pushing the residents of Gaza to seek refuge in churches, mosques, and schools, only to have those places of refuge bombed.
The Israeli occupation is systematically attacking Palestinian civilians seeking refuge, even as they tell them to do so. A few days into the aggression on Gaza, the Israeli occupation bombed a convoy of Palestinian refugees going from northern Gaza to the south of the Strip after ordering their displacement.
Firsthand reports indicate that the toll of martyrs was no less than 40, with hundreds, many of whom are Christians, being in the church. Many said the church had more than 500 people, which, if they were all killed – taking into account that Muslim refugees would have also been there – would have been around 30-40% of the Christian population of the Gaza Strip.
Such a systemic crime could have been genocide; accompanied by the aerial bombardment, it would have consequently wiped out the entire Christian population of the Gaza Strip, thus erasing over 2,000 years of history.
“There were 385 Christians seeking refuge in the church, we did not want to be forcibly displaced to Sinai. They talked to us, saying, ‘You must leave to the south, you must leave to the south.’ We said we did not want to go to the south,” one steadfast victim said.
“We said we wanted to die in Gaza, and they killed us in Gaza,” he added. “A missile directly hit the [two-story] building […] and it was turned to rubble.”
“We were all in the church, almost 400 Christians. We were sitting there safely, and all of a sudden we were getting bombarded. The entire floor was leveled over our heads,” another eyewitness and victim said, with bandages covering the top of her head and a child on her lap crying.
The Israeli occupation, with its behemoth intelligence system that it claims is unmatched, must have known that the church only harbored civilians, but that did not prevent it from rendering the holy site nothing but rubble. This means that either the Israeli occupation’s intelligence agencies are not as great as it claims, or it is purposely killing civilians.
It did not even use common sense to avoid committing a double war crime, one count for attacking a religious site and another for targeting unarmed civilians. The third could be one count of attempted genocide.
Photos shared from the site show nurses, doctors, and emergency crews tending to patients, some of whom do not look to be older than 2 or 3, with blood and dust covering them from the debris that fell on them.
This falls in line with the Israeli policy of committing war crimes in Gaza under the guise of striking military targets belonging to the Palestinian Resistance.
The occupation forces deliberately targeted al-Maamadani (Baptist) Hospital in central Gaza, causing a gruesome massacre that claimed the lives of at least 500 martyrs, mainly children.
The attack, another war crime, was also a double violation of international law. Attacking medical structures constitutes a war crime. However, the hospital is a Christian one, with a church attached to it. While the hospital is called the Baptist church, after John the Baptist, it is also run by the Greek Orthodox church, but the church that is within the hospital is run by the Baptist sect.
The phrase, “We said we wanted to die in Gaza” reflects how the Palestinian people, whether Christian or Muslim, are attached to their homeland, as they acknowledge that this is their country, and it is their right to live within the bounds of this state.
Resistance is entrenched in Palestinian culture; this is not something to be disregarded, for the main argument for the Israeli occupation is that the Resistance’s actions go against the will of the Palestinian people, which could not be any less true.
In this case, Palestinian Christians were killed by the Israeli occupation, and not once throughout all the recordings published did anyone condemn Hamas or blame them for their tribulation; to the contrary, they always affirmed their commitment to their land and country, as well as to their Resistance.
Another victim/eyewitness underlined that “we don’t have another place to flee to,” adding that his house had been bombed and leveled. “Where shall I go now?”
“There is no place left for us,” he cried. “I am a Christian in Gaza. You’re bombing Christians and Muslims in Gaza.”
This goes hand in hand with the pro-Resistance sentiment echoed by many Christians and even Christian clerics who declared that they would not leave Palestine over their dead bodies.
Before the church was destroyed on top of the heads of the refugees it was housing, Archbishop of Tabarayya Alexios declared from the ancient Monastery of Saint Porphyrios, “As long as there is at least one Christian in the territory of Gaza, I will not go anywhere, because I can be a hope for them, so I will stay in the province that believes in me. If I die, I will have a dignified death as my destiny!”
“This is our homeland,” he underlined. “We will not abandon it. Or fate is with Christ, and we accept whatever outcome he allows.”
The cleric did not care for the brutal air raids and artillery strikes targeting his place of residence, nor did he take to condemning the Resistance as the West would expect him to do. Instead, he underlined that he would remain steadfast in his land despite the vicious attempts to uproot him and his people.
This, in itself, also echoes the sentiment of Father Monk Antonios Hanania of occupied Palestine’s Akka, who said, “We are Resistance fighters, we are Palestinian Fidaʼiyin, and many martyrs of ours have ascended to the Heavens; they are now alive with their Lord for they are honest believers who have proven true to what they pledged [to Allah].”
“In the meantime, we have not fulfilled our pledge [offering our lives], and we continue to wait [for our turn] to be honored with martyrdom,” he added.
After all, Jesus told Peter to sheath his sword; he did not tell him to discard it completely (John 18:11).
As a matter of fact, the Israeli narrative of the Resistance cursing the people of Gaza with deaths en masse neglects the fact that the Palestinian Resistance, as it is known today – mainly as Hamas – has only been around for a few decades. Meanwhile, the occupation has been around for 75 years. Long before Hamas was even conceived, the people of Palestine were being occupied by a settler colonial entity that was brutally killing them for years, and they had to pick up arms in its face.
The Palestinian Resistance in Gaza, whether Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), or any other Palestinian Resistance faction, is only used as a scapegoat for the Israeli war machine that seeks to kill the Palestinian people indiscriminately in a manner that would culminate in ethnic cleansing.
The Palestinian people live under occupation. They are dying year-round, but the West only dares speak of what is going on when the Palestinians fire a rocket toward the Israeli occupation residing on their own occupied Palestinian land. That is when they are labeled “aggressors”; when their killing is most legitimized under the pretext of “terrorism”, the West’s favorite buzzword for any act that sees the oppressed standing up to an oppressor.
Hamas and the other factions’ raison d’etre is the Israeli occupation; if there was not an occupation, there would not be Hamas, but if there was no Hamas, there would be an even worse occupation – there would be nothing stopping “Israel” from barging into the homes of whoever they want and dragging them in the streets, brutally assaulting them, detaining them, and even killing them.
That is evident because in the West Bank, a Hamas-free territory, those sorts of crimes take place daily – Palestinians are arrested for their political affiliations, as they would in a fascist state, they are shot at, their kids are shot at and murdered in cold blood, they are deprived of all their rights, and they have to refer to the Israeli occupation before taking any step or else they risk prison time.
To neglect the Israeli occupation’s criminality that birthed the Palestinian Resistance movements we know today is to neglect decades of history that culminated in the creation of movements that seek to liberate the oppressed from the grips of the oppressor – it is to neglect history in itself, and those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. If one does not want ethnic cleansing or genocide, one must not neglect the importance of armed struggle, but that is a topic for another day.
Palestinian Christians once again remind the entire world that while they are a minority and sidelined by the media as Resistance fighters, they are exactly that.
“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).
Today, one realizes that if the Western conscience is not moved by the Israeli occupation seeking to uproot innocent civilian Christians and erase their history – Orthodox and Baptist Christians like those of their own nations, possibly the people that the ones they should relate to most in the region – then nothing will.