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BY MICHELE CHABIN
The latest resumption of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has claimed its first confirmed Christian victim: 60- year-old woman Jalileh Ayyad.
Sami El-Yousef, regional director for Palestine and Israel for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), provided the Register with an update on Christians and Christian institutions in Gaza. El-Yousef’s organization provides vital humanitarian services to Christians and Muslims in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.
In a phone interview, he said that, although the Israeli army apparently warned the family that their home would be targeted, a missile flew through their roof and into the home before they were able to flee. Ayyad was killed instantly; her 32-year-old son, Jeries, survived, but is in critical condition. He sustained extensive burns and shrapnel wounds that required the amputation of both his legs. He was transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Jerusalem “where he is fighting for his life,” according to El-Jousef.
He said that the Caritas clinic and three clinics run by the Near East Council of Churches in Gaza “are all shut down because they operate in areas that are way too dangerous to reach.”
Furthermore, the residence of the religious sisters serving the Latin Parish in Zeitoun, Gaza, was damaged by an Israeli shell.
El-Yousef provided additional details on CNEWA’s blog:
I received an urgent call two days ago from Suhaila Tarazi, director of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, explaining the urgency for medicines, medical supplies and, more importantly, fuel to operate the hospital’s generator. She reported the hospital had to make a painful decision to shut down their generator for 4 hours that afternoon in order to ration fuel. She was very upset not knowing what impact it will have on the patients’ treatment and recovery.
We immediately lobbied with our connections to ensure the hospital gets the fuel supply it needs to continue to save lives.
El-Yousef praised the work of George Anton, a CNEWA team member. He “leaves his young family on a daily basis and risks his own life to visit local institutions and individuals in order to assess the situation on the ground,” he said. He describes his personal experience and the stories of ordinary people affected by the war, the dozens of displaced families housed at the Holy Family Catholic Church, the hundreds of injured patients at the Anglican-run Al Ahli Arab Hospital and dozens of devout Muslim women and their children taking refuge at the ancient Greek Orthodox church of St. Porphyrios.
“Our churches and Church institutions in Gaza continue to be that beacon of hope despite all of the misery,” El-Jousef wrote. “Holy Family School, the Greek Orthodox parish and the Greek Orthodox Cultural Center have all opened up their facilities to hundreds of displaced families, giving them food, clean water and above all a safe roof over their heads. The Al Ahli Arab Hospital continues to open up its facilities in this emergency crisis to anyone needing medical treatment, free of charge. Incarnate Word Father Georges Hernandez continues to risk his life every day by making home and hospital visits. The Missionaries of Charity continue to call Gaza home despite the various offers for evacuation.”
Despite all of the suffering,” El-Jousef writes, “the Christian mission is certainly at its best. These brave souls — who are personally risking their lives — continue to comfort the injured and displaced, and provide assistance to the weak and marginalized with the Gospel in their hearts.
“Please know that your support and prayers for the people of Gaza, especially the women and children, are priceless and help to keep hope and faith alive.”