At least 16 Christians have been killed in a blast at a Greek Orthodox church compound in Gaza City.
It happened on Thursday evening as hundreds of people – many of them Christians displaced from their homes – had been sheltering in the ancient church of St Porphyrius and its buildings.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem has blamed Israel for the strike, while the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) says it is reviewing the incident.
Rev Dr Jack Sara, President of Bethlehem Bible College, gave his reaction to Premier.
“I couldn't sleep last night because I was in constant touch with our colleagues, students, friends, and families who are in Gaza at the moment. Many of them have been taking refuge in this church.
“Over two million people have been living in Gaza, which is only 88 square miles in size, which is about 20,000 people per square mile. So when there is bombing in a place like this, you will be hitting civilians as collateral damage.
“Christians in Gaza are scarce. There are less than a thousand in Gaza and they include a Greek Orthodox community, a Catholic community, and Protestant evangelical community, and a few others. And these have mostly been taking refuge in churches because after their houses were bombed, many of them felt danger where they live. They evacuated and have taken refuge in the churches, thinking that the churches might be safe, because they have dorms, they have crosses, they have maybe a Greek flag, or Franciscan or Vatican flag, so they might not be bombed.
“That’s what they thought. So they stayed in those churches; 400 of them were in the Greek Orthodox Church, and about 400 of them stayed at the Catholic Church. These two churches were the main refuge for those Christians. But sadly, last night, the church was hit hard. This was one of the oldest churches, it has been there since the fourth century. This event just escalates the humanitarian difficulties that Gaza is going through
“As Christians, we need to pray for the situation.”