A 1,600-year-old Orthodox Christian church, which is thought to be the third-oldest Christian church in the world, was reportedly partially destroyed in Gaza on Thursday, leading to at least two casualties. Countless others remain trapped beneath the rubble following a reported Israeli missile attack on the church, which housed over 500 Christian and Muslim refugees seeking shelter from the violence that has gripped northern Gaza.
The Holy Orthodox Order of the Holy Great Martyr George has confirmed the partial destruction of St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church and claims that “150–200 people are dead” and “that number is expected to rise.”
Ibrahim Jahshan, a deacon at the church, told The Washington Post that several hundred displaced Christians had taken refuge on the grounds. Rescuers were still digging through the rubble early Friday, but Jahshan said nine people had died and more than a dozen were wounded in the strike.
The order further claims that the Archbishop, by the name of Alexios, has been located; however, it is currently unknown if he was injured in the attack; however, the condition of the other refugees is unknown. The order has reported that missiles hit two church halls where many of the refugees, mostly women and children, were sleeping.
The Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem has denounced the attack, saying in a statement, “Targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli air strikes on residential areas over the past 13 days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored.”
The Israeli massacre against the Palestinian Christian community after bombing the Church of Saint Porphyrius (3th oldest church in the world), leading to 40 Palestinians murdered.
Death tolls expected to dramatically rise in the upcoming hours pic.twitter.com/8dKpFWsZ6d
— Younis Tirawi | ???? (@ytirawi) October 19, 2023
The attack comes a mere week after previous false claims that the church was destroyed emerged. The church, however, was quick to deny its destruction, thanking onlookers for their concern.
The church was originally built in 425 AD; however, extensive work was done in the 1150s by the Crusaders who had occupied Jerusalem, and restoration work was done in 1856.
— The National Independent (@NationalIndNews) October 19, 2023