Palestinians wounded in Israeli fire while waiting for aid, according to health officials, lie on beds at Al Shifa hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City.

In a statement issued on Friday 1 March, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem have joined the international community in condemning the “wanton attack against innocent civilians” that took place the previous day in Gaza City during the distribution of humanitarian aid. 

On Thursday 29 February, a doctor from al-Chifa hospital and witnesses said that Israeli soldiers fired on a crowd of civilians desperately seeking food aid being distributed from aid trucks in Gaza City in the north of the Palestinian enclave. The latest death toll stands at 112 with 760 injured, according to the Hamas health ministry. The United States, a staunch ally of Israel, demanded “answers” from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government following Thursday’s slaughter calling for a “thorough investigation.”

A lasting ceasefire

The representatives of the Churches in Jerusalem “call for the warring parties to reach an immediate and lengthy ceasefire that allows for the speedy disbursement of relief supplies throughout the Gaza strip, and for the enactment of a negotiated release of those held as captives and prisoners.” They also denounced the denial of responsibility for this violent act by Israeli army spokespersons and attempts to blame the victims. 

In sending their thoughts to all the “innocents suffering from the war,” the statement offered “special prayers of support to the Christian communities in Gaza under our pastoral care.” These include the 800 Christians who have taken refuge for the past five months in the Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrios and the Catholic Church of the Holy Family in Gaza City. “We likewise extend these same expressions of solidarity to the intrepid staff and volunteers of the Anglican-run Ahli Hospital, and to the patients they serve,” the statement adds.

Prayers for peace

In conclusion, the Church leaders expressed their ultimate hope for an end to the violence, the release of captives, and care for the victims can “open a horizon for serious diplomatic discussions that finally lead to a just and lasting peace here in the land where our Lord Jesus Christ first took up his cross on our behalf.” They pray that God “may grant us all his grace as we seek the fulfilment of this hopeful Easter vision.”