Jerusalem, Oct 20 (EFE).- An Israeli airstrike on a historic church in Gaza has killed several people, pushing the death toll from Israeli airstrikes in the besieged Palestinian enclave past 4,100, officials said on Friday.
As of Friday evening, at least 4,137 Palestinians have lost their lives, and over 13,000 have been injured due to the ongoing Israeli assault in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, according to the Gaza health ministry.
The bombing of the Church of St. Porphyrius, Gaza’s oldest church, killed at least 18 Gazan Christians on Thursday night, the Gaza health ministry said.
The church had provided shelter to nearly 500 people, including women and children, seeking refuge from Israeli airstrikes.
The church’s current structure dates back to the 12th century and is located in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. It was first built in the 5th century.
Issa Mousleh, the spokesperson for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, said at least 16 people were confirmed dead, adding that the toll may rise as “many of the approximately 450 people who sought refuge in the church are still buried under the rubble.”
Rescuers are struggling to quickly clear the debris to search for survivors.
The Israeli military acknowledged that its fighter jets had targeted a command and control center of the Islamist Hamas group, causing damage to the church’s wall.
The military said it was “aware of reports on casualties” and was reviewing the incident.”The church was not the target of the attack.”
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned “the Israeli airstrike that has struck its church compound in the city of Gaza.”
“Targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored,” the Patriarchate said in a statement.
Israel has defended its airstrikes on homes, temples, schools, and other civilian structures in Gaza by arguing that Hamas places its military assets in civilian areas and uses civilians as human shields.
The Israeli government has ordered the evacuation of the entire northern part of Gaza, including Gaza City, to the south, with the warning that its attacks would be concentrated in the northern region.
However, bombings have also continued in the southern areas.
On Thursday night, a series of Israeli airstrikes against the town of Khan Younis in the southern strip resulted in the deaths of at least 21 Palestinian civilians, including children, and left 79 others wounded, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency.
These airstrikes targeted six residential houses, with eight fatalities coming from the same family.
The conflict between Palestinian militants and the Israeli military entered its 14th day on Friday, marked by relentless Israeli aerial strikes on Gaza.
The war commenced after a surprise attack by hundreds of Hamas militants that claimed over 1,400 lives and left some 4,300 injured in Israel.
According to the Israeli army, Palestinian militants have fired some 7,300 rockets into Israel since Oct.7.
According to Israel, the Palestinian infiltrators abducted more than 200 people from Israeli territories who are being held hostages in Gaza. EFE