Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

ISRAEL has hit back at claims that an IDF sniper “killed” a mother and daughter sheltering inside a church in Gaza.

Pope Francis dubbed their deaths as an “act of terrorism” after he previously said the conflict in Gaza had “gone beyond war”.

GettyTwo Christian Palestinian women were allegedly shot dead by the IDF at the Holy Family Church in Gaza City[/caption]

@hammam_therapy / XNahida and her daughter Samar allegedly died after they were shot while going to use the bathroom in the convent on the church complex[/caption]

AFPIsraeli bombardment within the northern Gaza Strip on December 17[/caption]

Nahida and her daughter Samar Antoun, both Christians, were taking refuge inside the Holy Family Parish church in Gaza when they were shot dead.

Church officials claimed the pair were killed in “cold blood” in a church where many Christian families have been sheltering since the start of the war.

But the IDF has said its investigation so far does not conclude that Israeli troops were responsible.

It has also not ruled out that Hamas killed the women.

“One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety,” the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said in a statement.

“They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents.”

A further seven people were shot and injured as they tried to protect others hiding inside the church.

A relative of Nahida and Samar claimed they were shot by Israeli snipers.

Hammam Farah wrote on X/Twitter: “This morning Israeli snipers shot and killed my two family friends in an attack on the Holy Family Catholic Church in Gaza.

“Nahida (Um Emad Anton) and Samar, mother and daughter, were walking to the Sisters’ Convent to use the only bathroom.

“One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety. Their bodies remain strewn across the church courtyard.”

Pope Francis condemned the killings and said this weekend: “Unarmed civilians are the objects of bombings and shootings.

“And this happened even inside the Holy Family parish complex, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick or disabled, nuns.

“Some would say ‘It is war. It is terrorism.’ Yes, it is war. It is terrorism.”

The IDF claimed on Sunday that early reports suggested the troops were working “against a threat that they identified in the area of the church”.

It did say a further “thorough” review is yet to be completed.

Mark Regev, senior adviser to the Israeli PM, said: “We don’t shoot people who are going to church to pray.”

The church, in northern Gaza, is on a compound with a convent that is reportedly home to 54 disabled people.

Church officials said: “The 54 disabled persons are currently displaced and without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive.”

The Church shooting has generated global criticism, including from Italy and Britain.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said: “An (Israeli) sniper shot two women inside a church.

“This has nothing to do with the fight against Hamas because the terrorists are certainly not hiding in Christian churches.”

The UK’s Archbishop of Westminster also condemned the alleged “seemingly deliberate and callous killing” of the women.

The archbishop, who is head of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, said to his parish: “This killing has to stop. It can never be justified”.

And Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, foreign affairs spokesperson for the party, has family trapped among the 300 refugees in the church.

She said on X/Twitter: “I am desperately worried for my extended family in Gaza City.

“There are snipers at every window pointing into the church. Still shooting anyone emerging from buildings to use, for example, toilets. Still no food or water.”

The UN is set to vote on another ceasefire resolution today amid the continuing fighting in Gaza.

In a landmark vote last week 153 member countries voted for a ceasefire.

As the battles grow ever-increasingly more brutal Israeli troops discovered the biggest Hamas tunnel yet as they gained control of central Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The entrance sits 400 yards from the Erez border crossing and is thought to have been used by ­terrorists fleeing back after slaughtering 1,200 people on October 7.

Three Israeli hostages were also mistakenly shot dead by the IDF days ago as they reportedly tried to surrender, coming out of a building shirtless and carrying a white flag.

They were tens of metres away but feeling threatened, an IDF soldier declared them “terrorists” and opened fire.

When Israeli forces searched the building on Sunday they found “SOS” and “Help, 3 hostages” written in food on fabric.

More than 18,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been killed so far – Gaza’s Hamas-controlled Health Ministry claims.

Israel disputes these figures – and US President Joe Biden previously said he had “no confidence” in them.

But Benjamin Netanyahu admitted Israel has “not been successful” in reducing civilian casualties.

He said the deaths must be blamed on Hamas – not Israel.

And as the horror continues there have been growing calls for a humanitarian ceasefire to stop the bloodshed.

GettyThe church, in northern Gaza, is on a compound with a convent that is home to 54 disabled people[/caption]

AFPIsraeli forces mistakenly shot dead three hostages just days ago and found signs begging for help inside the building they were sheltering in[/caption]

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