ROME – After two women were killed and several others injured in a series of targeted attacks on a Catholic church and convent by the Israeli military in Gaza, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned the violence, especially as Christmas draws near.

In a Dec. 16 statement, the patriarchate said that around noon that day, “a sniper of the [Israeli Defense Force] murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families have taken refuge since the start of the war.”

More than 600 people are currently sheltering in Holy Family Catholic parish in Gaza, including most of the city’s small Christian minority, having sought refuge in convents and places of worship.

In its statement, the patriarchate said the victims were a mother and daughter, Nahida and Samar, and that one had been killed after attempting to rescue the other, who had been shot. Seven other people were also shot and wounded as they sought to protect others inside the church compound.

“No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents,” the statement said.

According to the patriarchate, earlier that day a rocket from an IDF tank “targeted” the convent where the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa, live, which is part of the church compound and which is home to 54 disabled persons.

Despite being designated as a place of worship since the beginning of the current war, the convent’s generator, its only source of electricity, and its fuel stores were destroyed, and the house itself was damaged by the “explosion and massive fire” resulting from the rocket.

“Two more rockets, fired by an IDF tank, targeted the same convent and rendered the home uninhabitable,” the patriarchate said, noting that the disabled persons living there are now “displaced” and do not have access to the respirators in the convent “that some of them need to survive.”

Additionally, three people were wounded inside the church compound Friday night as a result of heavy bombing in the area, and the solar panels and water tanks, which the patriarchate said, “are indispensable for the survival of the community,” were destroyed.

“Together in prayer with the whole Christian community, we express our closeness and condolences to the families affected by this senseless tragedy,” the patriarchate said, saying, “we cannot but express that we are at a loss to comprehend how such an attack could be carried out, even more so as the whole Church prepares for Christmas.”

The patriarchate assured believers that they are following developments in the situation “with great concern” and would provide more information as needed.

The current war ignited with a ground offensive in Gaza by the Israeli military following an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli, which claimed the lives of some 1,200 people with some 240 others being taken hostage.

Pope Francis has said he is in daily contact with Holy Family parish and its pastor, Father Gabriel Romanelli, who is currently in Rome and has not been able to return to Gaza after attending the Sept. 30 consistory in which the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, got his red hat.

In Romanelli’s absence, the parish’s associate pastor has been caring for those sheltering there, along with the priests and nuns who live in Gaza.

A previous bombing on the 12th century Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza, where hundreds are also sheltering, left 18 people dead, including one Caritas worker along with her husband and young daughter.

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