The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has strongly condemned a raid launched by Israeli forces against its Holy Family School in Gaza City on Sunday morning, which reportedly killed at least four people.   

Four victims reported

The air strike targeted two classrooms on the ground floor of the school sheltering a large number of displaced Palestinian families.  Among those killed was a senior Hamas administration official, Ihab al-Ghusain, the group’s deputy labour minister.

The Israeli army claims that the complex was used as a militant hideout and housed “a Hamas weapons manufacturing facility”. Tsahal said that it took steps to minimise the risk of civilians being harmed. 

Raid on UN-run school on 7 July

The raid on the Catholic school came only hours after Israeli forces attacked a UN-run school Saturday, killing at least 16 people and injuring 75 sheltered there, according to Gaza authorities, including two UNRWA workers. The incident provoked the outrage of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees at the repeated attacks on its facilities.

Since the beginning of the war in the Gaza Strip after the October 7 Hamas rampage, thousands of Palestinians in the enclave have sought shelter in hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure. However, Israel accuses Hamas and other militants of hiding in these places.

Civilians must remain outside the combat scene

In its statement, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem also condemned “in the strongest terms” the targeting of non-combatants, “or any belligerent actions that fall short of ensuring that civilians remain outside the combat scene.”

It said it continues to pray  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.”

Previous incidents

The compound of the Holy Family Catholic Parish in Gaza City, sheltering some 600 displaced Christians, is not new to attacks by Israeli forces in their fight against Hamas.  In December last year, an Israeli sniper killed two Christian women, a mother and her daughter, inside the compound.

The incident came nearly two months after an air strike on a building adjacent to St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church in which several people sheltered there lost their lives.  

Pope Francis and the Holy See, along with the United Nations, have repeatedly urged for the effective protection of civilians in the conflict.

At an open debate of the Security Council Security in New York in May, the Permanent Mission of the Holy See lamented that civilian infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and places of worship, have become “devastating targets, disproportionately affecting the lives of the innocent and defenceless.”

Israeli victims and hostages and the Palestinian death toll

More recently, the Holy Land Justice and  Peace Commission rejected the “just war” argument legitimizing the devastation and killing of civilians in response to Hamas’ attacks of October 7.

In the unprecedented incursion, the Palestinian terrorists killed about 1,200 people and seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 believed to be dead. Israel’s retaliation war has killed so far at least 38,000 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to data from the Hamas-run health ministry there.