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Israel struck an Orthodox church in Gaza

Israel launched another artillery strike on northern Gaza on Friday, levelling it to the ground, according to Reuters.

Half an hour before the strike, Gaza residents were warned to evacuate. Then an Orthodox Christian church was struck in which many Palestinians were sheltering. In this way, Israel is signalling that a command to invade Gaza is expected soon.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the main Palestinian Christian denomination, said Israeli troops struck St Porphyrios Church in Gaza City, where hundreds of Christians and Muslims had taken refuge.

The UN Secretary-General visited the crossing between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip and said humanitarian aid should be allowed through as soon as possible.

Israel has vowed to destroy the Islamist group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, after its fighters broke through the barrier fence surrounding the enclave on 7 October and wreaked havoc in Israeli towns, killing more than 1,400 people.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant addressed soldiers at the border with the Gaza Strip on Thursday. He said:

“You see Gaza now from a distance, you will soon see it from inside. The command will come.”

A video from the scene of the shelling shows an injured boy being carried out of the rubble at night. According to a civil defence official, two people on the upper floors survived, while those on the lower floors were killed and their bodies are still under the rubble. A man cried out:

“They felt they would be safe here. They came from under the bombardment and the destruction, and they said they would be safe here but destruction chased them.”

The Gaza government press office reports the deaths of 18 Christian Palestinians. The final death toll has yet to be determined. The church said the attack on the churches, which were used as shelters for people fleeing the bombings, was a “war crime that cannot be ignored.”

The Israeli military said part of the church was damaged in a strike on a militant command centre and that it was still studying the incident.

Israel has been carrying out airstrikes on Gaza and keeping the enclave’s 2.3 million residents under a complete blockade, banning food, fuel and medical supplies. Since 7 October, Israeli strikes in Gaza have killed at least 4,137 Palestinians and injured more than 13,000, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

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