Pope condemns killing of unarmed women in Gaza Church, calls for end to violence

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Two women were killed and seven others were injured by an Israeli military sniper inside a Catholic Church in Gaza on Saturday, according to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, CNN reported. The mother and daughter were walking to the Sister’s Convent at the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, the patriarchate said, when gunfire erupted. “One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety,” it said on Sunday.

Seven others were also shot and wounded in the attack at the complex, where most of Gaza’s Christian families have taken refuge since the start of the war, according to the patriarchate, which oversees Catholic Churches across Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. “No warning was given, no notification was provided,” the statement continued. “They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents.” Expressing his sorrow, Pope Francis addressed the tragic deaths during his Sunday Angelus prayer, highlighting the vulnerability of unarmed civilians in Gaza, the statement said, CNN reported.

“Unarmed civilians are targets for bombs and gunfire,” Pope said, invoking scripture on the devastating impacts of war. “I continue receiving very serious and sad news about Gaza. Unarmed civilians are targets for bombs and gunfire. And this has happened even within the parish complex of the Holy Family, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities, sisters,” the Pope said during his weekly Angelus prayer. “Some are saying, ‘This is terrorism and war.’ Yes, it is war, it is terrorism. That is why Scripture says that ‘God puts an end to war… the bow he breaks and the spear he snaps,'” the Pope continued.

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“Let us pray to the Lord for peace,” he added. According to the patriarchate, the Convent of the Sisters of Mother Theresa, housing 54 disabled individuals, was also targeted by Israel Defence Forces tanks. The convent’s generator, its sole electricity source, along with fuel resources, solar panels, and water tanks, were destroyed by IDF rockets. The patriarchate further reported that the convent had become uninhabitable due to the attacks, CNN reported.

Despite attempts to reach the Israel Defence Forces for comment, CNN has not received a response. On Friday, UK lawmaker Layla Moran, whose family sought refuge in the church, said they were “beyond desperate and terrified” as conditions worsened. She informed the UK House of Commons about a family member’s death on November 15 and reported the cessation of electricity generators at the church. Moran also mentioned alleged incidents of white phosphorous use and gunfire within the compound, including the shooting of the bin collector and janitor, whose bodies remained uncollected.

“(My family) are reporting white phosphorous and gunfire into their compound,” she said. “The bin collector and the janitor have been shot and their bodies are laying outside and remain uncollected.” CNN, however, cannot independently verify the reported conditions in and around the church or the allegations of the use of incendiary munitions.