Nahida and Samar: Mother and daughter killed in attack on Gaza parish

Gaza Catholic Church Roman Catholic Church of Holy Family in Gaza City. | Credit: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reported Dec. 16 that an Israeli sniper killed two members of Holy Family Parish, the only Catholic church in the Gaza Strip.

Vatican News reported Dec. 16 that Samar Anton was killed while she was trying to help her mother, Nahida Anton, who was hit by Israeli gunfire.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reported in a statement that both were killed when they were on their way to the nuns’ convent that is part of the parish complex. “One was killed while she tried to carry the other to safety,” the statement said. “Seven more people were shot and wounded as they tried to protect others inside the church compound.”

The Israel Defense Forces has denied responsibility for the deaths.

The Christian community in Gaza has approximately 1,000 members, most of whom are Greek Orthodox. There are only about 100 Catholics, which means theirs is a tight-knit community. Holy Family’s pastor, Father Gabriel Romanelli, said he was close friends with the women who were killed.

The Argentine missionary priest shared with Vatican Radio-Vatican News about both women, whose murders Pope Francis decried in Sunday’s Angelus.

Both “were very good people,” Romanelli related. “Nahida was the mother of a large family, with many children, almost all of them married... Among the unmarried children was Samar, the woman who was murdered. Samar was the cook at the home of the Sisters of Mother Teresa. Both mother and daughter participated in all the activities.”

Romanelli shared that “Nahida was part of the Women’s Confraternity of St. Anne. She was very active in this group.”

“In all the activities in which the families participated, she came with her children, her grandchildren... And Samar too. Samar took on many tasks, she helped us organize many activities, even with the young people and with the St. Anne group itself. Everyone, that whole family, the Anton family, is very close to the church, to the parish. It’s really sad,” the priest said.

According to Vatican News, the IDF claimed there was a rocket launcher inside the parish. However, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem charged that “no warning was given, no notification was provided” by the Israeli soldiers. The refugees “were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents.”

Prior to the shooting, the patriarchate said, “a rocket fired from an IDF tank targeted the convent of the Sisters of Mother Teresa (Missionaries of Charity),” which is next to the parish, reportedly destroying the electric generator. The resulting explosion and massive fire left the home uninhabitable.

The convent was the home to 54 disabled people, some of whom need respirators to stay alive and are now left without a place to live, the patriarchate reported.

This story was first publishedby ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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