An attack by the Israeli air force against part of the Saint Porphyry church in Gaza. Photo: Vatican News

Update on Christian community and institutions in Gaza

Over 400 Christian families are sheltering in or seeking emergency food aid from both the Greek Orthodox Church of St Porphyrius, and the Holy Family Church. The Greek Orthodox Church provides water, breakfast, and lunch, along with washing facilities. Additionally, the Church is distributing petrol to maintain the operation of generators.

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(ZENIT News – Pontifical Mission, Jerusalem / Gaza City, 03.08.2024).- Gaza Christians and internally displaced people (IDPs) are still sheltering in the two Church compounds: the Holy Family Parish Church compound (that includes the church, parish facilities, school buildings, three convents, and care homes), and the Greek Orthodox Church. Israel has ordered people to evacuate the Zeitoun neighbourhood, where the Holy Family Parish is located. Orthodox Christians from the neighbouring St Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church, which was hit by an Israeli airstrike in October, are sheltering there.

The Missionary of Charity Convent housed displaced people however, a missile strike in mid-December hit the compound and destroyed the building’s generator, solar panels, and water tanks.

Currently, around 560 Christians – including 140 children and 84 people over the age of 65, are at the Holy Family Church. According to Sr Nabila Saleh of the Congregation of the Rosary, around 120 of the 1,000 people who took shelter in the parish at the start of the war have left Gaza using emergency visas or foreign nationality. The parish provides food, water, and other basic items where needed.

Over 400 Christian families are sheltering in or seeking emergency food aid from both the Greek Orthodox Church of St Porphyrius, and the Holy Family Church. The Greek Orthodox Church provides water, breakfast, and lunch, along with washing facilities. Additionally, the Church is distributing petrol to maintain the operation of generators.

There have been 30 Palestinian Christians killed; 19 people have been killed by the military and 11 have died because of a lack of medical care in the four months since the war began.

Near East Council of Churches Mother and Child Clinics

According to DSPR (Feb. 2024 update), Rafah is the only clinic functioning. Finding humanitarian- related goods and supplies, if found, is expensive. In addition, the security context is difficult, with no electricity and very little fuel to run the Rafah centre.

Health Services

NECC Rafah health services include and are not limited to primary health care, dental care, medical laboratory services, pharmacy; mother and child health support, psychosocial support and provide essential medicines and hygiene kits. So far, it has been able to reach 8,654 children and adults (females represent 62% of the beneficiaries) since the beginning of the humanitarian response. The registered number of beneficiaries is divided as follows:

– 592 beneficiaries in antenatal care beneficiaries
– 1253 beneficiaries in the dental clinic
– 41 beneficiaries received family planning.
– 3,799 treated in the general clinic (communicable and non-communicable diseases).
– 565 treated for malnutrition.
– 1,136 treated in the pediatrics section.
– 20 seen for prenatal care.
– 113 beneficiaries in pre-conception care
– 1,135 beneficiaries were seen in the well-baby services.
– All the beneficiaries received the needed medications from the pharmacy.
– Many of the patients are invited to special health awareness sessions at the Rafah clinic DSPR .
– 1,000 hygiene kits distributed.

Cash and Vouchers
– More than 620 families have received cash transfers for basic needs such as purchasing water, food, and other important needs. Each beneficiary family received 750 NIS (190 USD) as a first payment to purchase basic needs such as food, water, winter clothing, medicines, etc.
– PalPay (a Palestinian e-payment solution using mobile phone SMS technology) was used as the primary method in disbursing cash support to beneficiaries in di[erent geographical areas.

Psychosocial Support

DSPR-NECC has supported children and mothers with psychosocial support in south Gaza through small group sessions and large play sessions for children, in addition to psychological first aid sessions.

– Nine mental health staff along with four facilitators/volunteers started interventions in the UNRWA shelters/schools where the field teams have been able to coordinate mainly in Rafah and Al-Qarara areas. The teams reached more than 4,546 people in seven UN shelters in Rafah, Khan Younis.

Other NECC Health Clinics in Shijaiah and Darraj, Gaza City

– According to NECC personnel, the main office was robbed, and the Israeli military occupied the space for three days. 353 IDPs from the north and Al-Shati sheltered there for some time but are no longer there. Some of the files and other items remained.
– Al-Daraj Clinic was bombed and completely destroyed. The neighbors living next door to the clinic were killed in an airstrike.
– -Al-Shijaiah Clinic: the psychosocial support room completely burned down. The clinic is not operating.
– Al-Qarara Vocational Training center: The solar energy training building was partially destroyed.
– The NECC project coordinators’ o[ices and the NECC vocational training o[ices were burned down.

Al-Ahli Arab Hospital

Al-Ahli Arab Hospital is the last functioning hospital in northern Gaza. The hospital manages to perform 18-22 operations per day and caters to 300 outpatients. The facility is stretched well beyond capacity, necessitating the utilization of all available spaces within the building to accommodate the growing need for medical care, including the on-site library, pharmacy, and chapel.

Suhaila Tarazi, Director of the Hospital has said that both doctors and patients have not had food in the past four days. The hospital has also run out of fuel.

– The Israeli military are currently operating in Zeitoun neighbourhood near the hospital which makes it difficult for people to move in the immediate area.
– Despite transitioning to solar power, the hospital’s efforts to sustain its operations have been hampered, as it currently runs at only 30% capacity.
– The hospital has been fortunate to receive a good stock of medical supplies from the United Palestinian Appeal (UPA).

– To assist their over-taxed medical team, the hospital is now rotating additional staff from hospitals that are no longer operational.

– The hospital needs essential fuel, repair the solar power infrastructure, replenish medical and food supplies. 

Caritas Medical Center – Gaza
– At the beginning of the conflict, Caritas team members were able to transfer supplies and equipment from the medical centre to establish primitive clinics at both the Holy Family and the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius church compounds.
– Caritas medical centre is not functioning.

YMCA – Gaza
– The YMCA building was bombarded on Saturday 17 December 2023 which resulted in death and injuries. According to local sources in Gaza, the YMCA building suffered significant damage; the studio and the library were destroyed, which at the time, served as a shelter for IDPs. Doors, windows, and the solar system were stolen, although some important documents were salvaged.
– The YMCA football field wall was bulldozed, and remnants scattered across the field. The adjacent mosque was destroyed, and the explosion also damaged the grass field.
– Despite these challenges, employees have been receiving salaries until the end of the year. 

Greek Orthodox Patriarchate School
– According to school personnel, the school building remains intact but there is significant damage; the wall facing the street and the playground area was damaged.
– The school was a shelter for 500 IDPs without coordination with the school administration.
– Regrettably, most of the school property, particularly the computer room, science lab, and library, was stolen. Additionally, the solar system cells were damaged.
– School employees have not been paid their salaries since October 2023 due to the disruption of communication and payment issues.
– A guard was placed on site to protect the property.

Rosary Sisters School

A Rosary Sisters school teacher’s personal account, «An ode to my school, destroyed by Israel»:

More than 80 percent of the school’s buildings have been destroyed.
– November 2023, Israeli military entered the school with bulldozers and tanks, demolished the school yard and destroyed the wall surrounding the campus.
– The school library was bombed, and a fire destroyed the library.
– The elevator and school theatre were destroyed.

Sr Nabila Saleh of the Congregation of the Rosary who has been sheltering at the Holy Family Church in Gaza, said that her and another Sister continued to teach the catechism and care for the children in the parish, who have now missed almost half a year of schooling. However, one sister has been evacuated and Sr Nabila was due to leave suffering exhaustion. It is uncertain whether the Rosary Sisters, who operate across the Middle East, will be able to restore their presence in Gaza in the future.

St John Eye Hospital

According to St John Eye Hospital organization, the hospital in Gaza is currently being used as a shelter by a number of displaced families. Most of the medical equipment has been removed.

St John Eye hospital staff are predominantly residing in Rafah who continue to work and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The organization coordinates with major health care responders in Gaza including the World Health Organization, Care International, International Medical Corps and others to both identify ophthalmic health care needs and coordinate responses. Hospital management is also engaged with COGAT to secure shipment of medical equipment and medications to Gaza in preparation for ophthalmic medical responses.

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