An Israeli airstrike reportedly damaged the St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church campus in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Approximately 500 people had been sheltering on the church campus, including 80 council members, when the blast occurred and killed two people, according to the WSJ. The Israel Defense Force (IDF) was targeting a Hamas control center on Thursday and “damaged the wall of a church in the area” during an airstrike, The Washington Post reported.
The original structure of the historic St. Porphyrius church dates back to the 5th century, according to the Post. The airstrike damaged “two church halls where the refugees, including children and babies, were sleeping,” according to a statement from The Order of St. George, which is associated with the church.
New video of the aftermath of yesterday’s shelling of the Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza pic.twitter.com/kjCNVDV9CG
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) October 20, 2023
“They’re terrified. They’re shaken. They don’t know what to do, and they don’t know where else to go,” a U.S.-based Palestinian American woman told the Post, referring to refugees who had been sheltering at the church. “I’m concerned for everyone because we’re a small community.”
Multiple reports claimed the St. Porphyrius church had been destroyed days after the initial Hamas terrorist attack on Oct. 7, but those claims were debunked by the church, which quickly opened its doors to refugees displaced by the conflict.
“Our beloved brothers in the Lord, we inform you that the church of St. Porferius in Gaza is in the best condition … And the news you spread is nothing more than rumors … We thank all of you who asked and cared,” the church said in a statement on Oct. 9, according to an English translation.
The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.