The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a strong condemnation after the Israeli military targeted a Catholic school in Gaza killing four people, including a senior Hamas official.

Holy Family School, a property of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, was a place of refuge for hundreds of civilians whose homes were destroyed.

Prior to the conflict, the Latin Patriarchate had described the school, as ‘the best school in Gaza, providing a high standard of education, cultural exchange, a Christian atmosphere and religious instructions for Christian children’.

In a statement published on 7 July, the patriarchate said it was monitoring reports of a strike on the school, which ‘has, since the beginning of the war, been a place of refuge for hundreds of civilians’.

‘The Latin Patriarchate condemns, in the strongest terms, the targeting of civilians,’ the statement read, adding that those sheltering at the school had ‘hoped against all odds that their families and children would be safe, but there is no safe place in Gaza.’

‘We continue to pray for the Lord’s mercy,’ the statement concluded.

According to multiple news reports, including by the Associated Press, Israeli airstrikes took place overnight on 6–7 July in Gaza, killing 13 Palestinians.

The strike against Holy Family School, which was operating as a shelter, claimed the lives of four people, including Ihab al-Ghussein, Hamas’ undersecretary of labour.

Israeli military officials justified the attack on the school, arguing that the bombing struck a Hamas military building and a weapons-making facility ‘in the area of a school building’.

Meanwhile, Israeli protesters blocked highways across the country on 7 July, marking nine months since the war in Gaza started, calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step down, and pushing for a ceasefire to bring back scores of hostages still held by Hamas, AP reported.

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Palestinians inspect the Holy Family School in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip on 7 July, which shelters displaced people, after it was hit in an Israeli airstrike amid the Israel–Hamas conflict. (Photo: OSV News/Ayman Al Hassi, Reuters.)

The attack comes as a newly published report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) indicates that 96 per cent of Gaza’s population face high levels of acute food insecurity.

The Rafah border has been closed since 7 May, hindering aid delivery in the south.

However, since the opening of the Erez West crossing on 13 May, a Caritas partner has opened three warehouses and two distribution points in the north, distributing ready-to-eat food, bedding kits, shelter and water, and sanitation and hygiene items to 4,600 households.

Sally Thomas, Humanitarian Emergencies Lead at Caritas Australia, said that ‘Shelters like the Holy Family School are an important part of continued efforts to deliver lifesaving aid. This attack has not only removed shelter from all those residing there but made humanitarian efforts that much harder. New shelter will have to be found for those displaced—many of whom have been displaced multiple times—and it is likely they will be separated from the community they built there.

‘We are immensely proud of our partners in Gaza, who continue to adapt under changing border restrictions and unpredictable military activity. However, we continue to call for a ceasefire to enable civilians to be kept safe, and humanitarian aid to be safely delivered at scale. Without this, civilian lives will undoubtedly continue to be lost with children heavily impacted, given over half the population of Gaza is under 15 years of age.’

A Caritas worker walks through the destruction in Gaza photo credit Caritas Jerusalem
A Caritas worker walks through the destruction in Gaza. (Photo courtesy of Caritas Australia.)

To support Caritas Australia’s Gaza Appeal, visit www.caritas.org.au/gaza or call 1800 024 413 toll free. 

Banner image: Palestinians inspect the Holy Family School in Gaza City in the Gaza Strip on 7 July, which shelters displaced people, after it was hit in an Israeli airstrike amid the Israel–Hamas conflict. (Photo: OSV News/Ayman Al Hassi, Reuters.)