Bishop Zaidan condemns ‘any targeting of civilians’ at Holy Family School in Gaza

Holy Family School in Gaza Palestinian women react as they look at the badly damaged Latin Patriarchate Holy Family School after it was reportedly hit during 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

Bishop A. Elias Zaidan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, offered support Wednesday for a Catholic school in Gaza after an alleged Israeli raid over the weekend and reported civilian casualties. 

“The [Holy] Family School has been a place of refuge for hundreds of civilians, and I join the Latin Patriarchate in condemning any targeting of civilians in the [Holy] Family School in Gaza,” Zaidan said in a July 10 statement. 

“I urge in strongest terms that civilians remain outside the sphere of combat, while also praying for peace and an immediate end to hostilities.”

Zaidan leads the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, encompassing a large portion of the western United States from California to Ohio. 

On Sunday the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem sharply condemned reports of the Israeli raid. Images circulated on social media on Sunday and Monday showing the destruction wrought at the facility. The school, attached to the only Catholic church in Gaza, is located in the Remal neighborhood of Gaza City, an area that sustained heavy damage at the outset of the Israel-Hamas war in October 2023.

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. Gazan authorities later said four civilians were killed in the attack; Israel’s military said the school complex was used as a militant hideout and housed “a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility.” 

Hamas said that Ehab al-Ghussein, Gaza’s deputy minister of labor, was among the four people killed in the airstrike, CNN reported. 

While not commenting on whether Hamas militants were present at the school, the Latin Patriarchate said Holy Family School “has, since the beginning of the war, been a place of refuge for hundreds of civilians.”

“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.”

Holy Family Parish in Gaza was the site of a similar reported conflict late last year when in December it was alleged that an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sniper shot and killed two women within the parish compound. 

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.”

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