The only Baptist church in the Gaza Strip — and one of just four Christian congregations in the besieged territory — received significant damage from an Israeli attack on Tuesday (Dec. 26).
Reports and photos emerged on social media on Tuesday saying the church building had been hit by an Israeli tank shell that blasted through the building and badly damaged the interior of the church. Word&Way confirmed with a former pastor of the church that the building was hit. Rev. Hanna Massad, who leads Christian Mission to Gaza, called it a “very bad situation.” He also noted that more than 70 people from about 15 families had been sheltering inside the church building.
“It breaks our hearts to see these images, as we built this building step by step in early 2000,” Massad added. “This place had been a beacon of light for many people to come know the Lord in Gaza, and we pray that it continues to be a blessing for our community.”
Each of the other three church buildings in Gaza has also been marred by violence during the war that started after Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Oct. 7.
On Dec. 16, an Israeli sniper killed two Christian women and wounded others at the Church of the Holy Family, the only Catholic congregation in Gaza. They were among the hundreds of people sheltering at the church. Pope Francis quickly denounced the attack as “terrorism.” The deputy mayor of Jerusalem defended the Israel Defense Forces, falsely insisting they couldn’t have killed people at a church because “there are no churches in Gaza.”
In October, an Israeli airstrike hit the Church of Saint Porphyrius, a Greek Orthodox church that is the oldest Christian congregation in Gaza. Hundreds of people were sheltering in the church, and at least 18 were killed in the blast.
A deadly explosion also occurred in October at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital, which is run by Anglicans. Both sides accuse the other of launching the deadly strike, but U.S. officials are backing Israeli claims it was a terrorist rocket that misfired. The hospital had previously been damaged by an Israeli rocket three days earlier and was hit by an Israeli strike in 2003. The Anglican chapel on the hospital compound was damaged in the disputed October blast.
Additionally, the building of the Near East Council of Churches was also severely damaged in an Israeli airstrike in October, and an Israeli rocket hit the covenant that housed the Missionaries of Charity (a Catholic order founded by Mother Teresa).
After the sniper attack earlier this month at the Catholic church, Daoud Kuttab (a Palestinian Christian journalist in Jordan), pointed out that the estimated death toll among Christians in Gaza is “proportionally twice that of Palestinian Muslims.”
Since Hamas killed about 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed more than 21,000 people, including more than 8,500 children.