Latin Patriarchate condemns reported raid by Israeli forces on Gaza Catholic school

Holy Family School Gaza Palestinians stand on the rubble and debris of the Latin Patriarchate Holy Family School after it was hit during an alleged Israeli military bombardment in Gaza City on July 7, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. | Credit: OMAR AL-QATTAA/AFP via Getty Images

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem on Sunday sharply condemned reports of an alleged Israeli raid against a Catholic school in Gaza over the weekend. 

The patriarchate said in a Sunday press release that it was “monitoring, with grave concern, the news of the raids, apparently launched by the Israeli army” against the Holy Family School in Gaza City on Sunday morning. 

Footage and media reports “include scenes of civilian casualties and of destruction in the compound,” the statement said. Caritas reported on X “the tragic loss of hundreds of innocent lives” from the raid.

Images circulated on social media on Sunday and Monday showing the destruction wrought at the facility.

The Holy Family School “has, since the beginning of the war, been a place of refuge for hundreds of civilians,” the patriarchate said in its statement. “No religious personnel reside in the school.”

“The Latin Patriarchate condemns in the strongest terms the targeting of civilians or any belligerent actions that fall short of ensuring that civilians remain outside the combat scene,” the statement read. 

“We continue to pray for the Lord’s mercy and hope that the parties will reach an agreement that would put an immediate end to the horrifying bloodbath and humanitarian catastrophe in the region.”

Sami El-Yousef, the CEO of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told CNA on Monday that officials have been unable to tally the full number of casualties at the school site. 

“We don’t have accurate numbers because our own parish priest and members of the community could not get to the location, because there’s intensive fighting around the parish,” he said via phone. 

“It’s too dangerous for anyone to actually leave. We cannot really with any certainty verify the number of people killed and injured.”

The school is located in the Remal neighborhood of Gaza City, El-Yousef said; the area was “practically destroyed” around the outset of the Israel-Hamas war in October 2023, he noted. 

The Israeli military told the BBC that it carried out a strike on the area of a school building in Gaza City from which it says “terrorists were operating and hiding.”

The Holy Family Parish in Gaza was the site of a similar reported conflict late last year when in December it was alleged that an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) sniper shot and killed two women at the church’s compound. 

The IDF denied the allegations several times, while Pope Francis sharply criticized the reports after they became known, arguing that at the Catholic parish, there were “no terrorists, but families, children, sick and disabled people, nuns.”

“Yes, it’s war, it’s terrorism,” the pope said at the time. 

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