Before Israel’s ground offensive on Gaza last night, a five hour truce on Thursday to allow the entry of humanitarian aid into the territory helped a few hundred people to evacuate the area, Fides reports.
Among them were three Sisters of the Institute of the Incarnate Word – all foreigners – operating at the Catholic parish dedicated to the Holy Family.
But despite the dangers, a number of missionaries and laypeople are remaining. On Wednesday afternoon, after 5pm, “three missiles destroyed a house very close to the parish,” Brazilian Sister Laudis told Fides. “For several days the Sisters of Mother Teresa with the 28 disabled children and nine elderly women cared for by them moved to the parish because they considered it a safer place.
“And all of them will remain in Gaza, along with the parish priest Fr. Jorge Hernandez,” she said.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reports that permanent Eucharistic adoration has begun in the parish and on Thursday Holy Mass was celebrated “to implore forgiveness for all, justice and peace”.
In short messages disseminated by the Institute of the Incarnate Word, Fr. Jorge and Sr. Gladis have described in detail the condition experienced by the small Catholic community and the entire population of Gaza.
“What is certain is that crimes are increasing,” Fr. Jorge said. “Young children are beginning to get sick because of fear, stress, shock waves and the continuous noise. Parents are doing everything they can to distract them by playing, jumping and dancing every time they hear an explosion”.
Meanwhile, to date, the death toll of the Israeli military operation on the Gaza Strip has caused at least 227 deaths among Palestinians, mostly civilians. In the few hours of the ceasefire, the population of Gaza was out in the streets withdraw cash from banks and buy basic necessities.
The Israeli military last night began a ground offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza, stepping up its 11-day-old military operation. Troops and tanks were sent into the coastal strip to deal “a significant blow to Hamas”, Israel said.
Israel says the goal of the operation is to “establish a reality in which Israeli residents can live in safety and security without continuous indiscriminate terror, while striking a significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure”.