In a tragic incident that has added a personal dimension to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, former U.S. Congressman Justin Amash revealed that several of his family members lost their lives when an Israeli airstrike struck a church in Gaza City where they were seeking shelter.
Amash, a prominent figure who became the first Palestinian-American to serve in Congress, expressed his grief on social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) last Friday. He wrote, "Give rest, O Lord, to their souls, and may their memories be eternal." His message not only reflected his personal loss but also highlighted the hardships endured by the Palestinian Christian community and the broader Palestinian population.
Shelter Turned Tragedy
Amash’s relatives, including two young women identified as Viola and Yara, were seeking refuge in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Porphyrius, Gaza’s oldest active church. Tragically, this revered sanctuary for both Christians and Muslims came under attack when Israel hit one of its buildings last Thursday, resulting in the loss of 17 lives.
Historically, Gaza City’s oldest church has provided shelter to many during Israel’s conflicts with Palestinians. However, the recent incident underscores the grim reality that the Israeli occupation does not differentiate between places of worship, hospitals, or civilian areas.
Amplifying Humanitarian Concerns
Amash expressed his gratitude for the outpouring of condolences and seized the opportunity to draw attention to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza. He emphasized, "Please remember the thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians, in unbearable circumstances, who simply want a life of peace." This heartfelt plea is especially poignant considering that a significant portion of those suffering are children who deserve a life free from violence and death.
According to the Gazan Health Ministry, the situation in Gaza is dire. Since October 7, over 4,500 Palestinian lives have been lost in Israeli airstrikes, and a heartbreaking 40% of these casualties are children. Additionally, nearly 15,000 individuals have been wounded, with over two-thirds being children and women. As of the latest available data, at least 1.4 million people have been displaced due to the ongoing Israeli bombardment. Notably, almost half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 18.
Israeli Military’s Response
Israel’s military has responded to this tragic incident by stating that the church was inadvertently damaged during a strike on a nearby Hamas "command and control center." They have denied deliberately targeting the church. In a statement, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said, "We are aware of reports on casualties. The incident is under review."
The tragic events in Gaza continue to raise concerns and questions about the impact of the ongoing conflict on civilians and places of worship. Former Rep. Justin Amash’s personal loss has brought international attention to the dire situation, reminding us all of the urgency to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
What is the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza?
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is rapidly escalating, with experts warning of imminent food insecurity and a severe lack of water supply. Potable water, essential food stocks, and crucial supplies like hygiene materials and medicine are all in critically short supply. According to Lazzarini, people are left with no choice but to consume unclean water, adding to the dire living conditions in the region. The situation demands urgent attention to prevent a catastrophic impact on the population.
Who originally occupied Palestine?
In the Iron Age, two interconnected Israelite kingdoms, Israel and Judah, held sway over a significant portion of Palestine. Simultaneously, the Philistines established themselves along its southern coast. However, in a series of historical transitions, the region was subsequently conquered by the Assyrians in the 8th century BCE, followed by the Babylonians around 601 BCE. Eventually, the Persians took control after vanquishing the Babylonian Empire in 539 BCE.
Who founded Hamas?
Hamas was founded by a group of Palestinian activists.
Who governs the West Bank?
The West Bank is primarily governed by the Palestinian Authority, while Hamas operates primarily in Gaza.
Was Palestine a country before Israel?
Before the establishment of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, there was no recognized Palestinian State. The territories that now constitute the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip were administered by Jordan and Egypt, respectively, from 1948 to 1967.
What is the old name of Palestine?
The region was historically known as ‘Canaan’ in Mesopotamian texts and trade records dating back to the 18th century BCE. The term ‘Palestine’ does not appear in written records until the 5th century BCE in Herodotus’ Histories.