The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham has spoken in the House of Lords, to raise concerns about the plight of Christians in northern Gaza.
Rt Rev Paul Williams told the House on Tuesday about worrying reports from two locations:
“News arrived overnight of the actions of the Israel Defense Forces in destroying the entrance wall of the Anglican Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City, closing that facility, detaining most of its staff and leaving a tank on the rubble.
“The second incident relates to comments made by the deputy mayor of Jerusalem on LBC radio this morning, where she was questioned about a sniper attack on two Christian women in the compound of the Holy Family Church. She said that there were no Christians or churches in Gaza and that they have been ‘driven out by Hamas’.”
Bishop Paul reminded the House that the Christian witness in Gaza is still present in the territory: “There remains a small, yet highly visible, Christian community in Gaza, which is very notably engaged in the provision of Gaza’s healthcare facilities."
In recent days, MP Layla Moran, a Palestinian Christian who has family members sheltering at the church, has been posting about the conditions her relatives are facing there, without access to food or water and unable to even move between rooms to check on each other safely.
Bishop Paul continued: “While I recognise the right of Israel to pursue its legitimate military objectives, I ask the Minister to ensure that His Majesty’s Government make clear to the Government of Israel that the targeting of religious buildings, their people and the healthcare facilities they provide to the community is unacceptable”
On behalf of Christians in the UK, he appealed for swift action: “The Church in this country expects the prompt release of medical staff detained from the Al-Ahli hospital.”
Conservative peer Lord Benyon, speaking for the government, replied:
“Our information is that there were no Hamas fighters in or around the Holy Family compound and that the people who work and live there are nuns and other employees, or people who work with them.
“We want to make sure that they are protected and given all the protection one has a right to require for such people in a conflict situation.”
Meanwhile the United Nations Security Council, which includes the UK, is continuing to wrangle over the wording of a resolution over the situation in Gaza. The crucial vote has been delayed several times but is now expected sometime on Thursday.