CNEWA Canada

Israeli Airstrikes Flatten Orthodox Cultural Center

Israeli Defense Forces targeted the Arab Orthodox Cultural Center in Gaza in airstrikes on 30 October, flattening the complex where until two days ago more than 3,000 people had been seeking refuge.

Joseph Hazboun, regional director of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission in Jerusalem, reported on 31 October that two days before the bombing the director of the center “received a phone call from the Israelis inquiring about the center’s occupants.”

“Another phone call later gave clear orders to evacuate the building; all those sheltering at the center immediately left,” he said. “Several attempts by various parties were made in order to stop the bombing. Unfortunately, last evening the building was bombed.” 

No casualties were reported.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a statement, condemning Israel’s overnight bombing, calling it “a direct and unjustified attack on one of the pillars of culture and social services in Gaza.”

The attack “represents a stark embodiment of Israel’s unwarranted determination to destroy the civil infrastructure and social service centers, as well as shelters for civilians trapped in the besieged enclave,” the statement says. 

The Patriarchate also noted “with grave concern” that the Israeli military has targeted 19 places of worship, including mosques and churches, in Gaza in the past three weeks. 

“Such attacks on civilians, particularly children, and the deliberate destruction of civilian infrastructure, cannot be justified on rational or humanitarian grounds and are fundamentally at odds with even the most basic moral values,” the statement adds.

The Patriarchate reiterated its prayers for peace, its “firm demand for an immediate and comprehensive cease-fire” and its pledge to continue its international efforts to achieve a cease-fire.

CNEWA-PM has been supporting the Orthodox Cultural Center, located in the Tel Al Hawa neighborhood of Gaza, since 2012, starting with several small grants to help finish the complex that had begun 20 years prior. 

Inaugurated four years ago, the center was “a jewel among the Christian institutions in Gaza,” said Mr. Hazboun. Open to the entire community, regardless of creed, the center offered a safe place for people to gather, especially young people, to receive skills training, practice sports, organize conferences and hold celebrations. 

CNEWA-PM also supported an employment program that funded salaries for 17 of the center’s 24-member staff. 

Israel has bombarded Gaza since Hamas militants killed about 1,400 people in a terrorist attack on 7 October. More than 8,500 people in Gaza are estimated to have been killed in Israeli airstrikes since then and tens of thousands displaced.

Read more about the significant role the center played in Gaza in this first-person testimony from the center’s director, Rami Tarazi

Laura Ieraci is editor of ONE.

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