IDF 'shot dead a Christian mother and daughter sheltering in church'

Israel’s Defence Forces ‘shot dead a Christian mother and daughter as they sheltered at a Catholic Church in Gaza’ just one day after mistakenly gunning down three hostages

  • An IDF sniper allegedly shot a mother and child sheltering in a church in Gaza
  • Comes as the IDF launched probe into the accidental shooting of three hostages

The Israeli military killed a Christian mother and daughter sheltering in a Catholic church in Gaza City on Saturday, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has claimed.

Nahida and her daughter, Samar, were shot ‘in cold blood’ by a sniper as they walked to the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, the patriarch said in a statement, adding that the holy site had been struck three times by projectiles fired by an Israeli tank.

‘One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety,’ the statement continued, adding that seven others were wounded by gunfire as they tried to protect others.

The projectiles fired from the tank knocked out the building’s generator and fuel supplies, rendering the building housing dozens of disabled people uninhabitable, according to the patriarchate. ‘The 54 disabled persons are currently displaced and without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive.’ 

The IDF yesterday took responsibility for the accidental deaths of three hostages revealed to have been shouting ‘help’ in Hebrew and waving white flags when they were gunned down earlier on Friday morning.

Yotam Haim, 28, Samer Fouad Talalka, 22, and Alon Lulu Shamriz, 26, were killed in Gaza after Israeli troops mistakenly identified them as a ‘threat’, according to the IDF, one soldier believing the men moving towards him were trying to lure them into a trap.

Both pro-Palestinian protestors in Europe and the families of hostages in Israel have mounted calls for a ceasefire. More than 18,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, when Gaza’s de facto governing authority, Hamas, launched its bloody incursion into southern Israel killing nearly 1,200.

Christian worshippers arrive to attend Christmas day mass at the Roman Catholic Church of Holy Family in Gaza City on December 25, 2017

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Saturday, December 16, 2023

Palestinians check a half destroyed building following Israeli bombardment on Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 15, 2023

Israeli army Merkava battle tanks deploy along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on October 13, 2023

According to the Vatican press agency, citing Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the victims of the church attack were an elderly woman and her daughter.

Christian families have been taking refuge in the Sister’s Convent since the conflict erupted in October, they explained.

READ MORE: Fury on the streets of Tel Aviv over IDF shooting of Israeli hostages: Families of civilians kidnapped by Hamas stage demo after army admitted killing three it mistook for terrorists in Gaza fighting 

Approached for comment, the Israeli army said it was looking into the incident, which took place on the grounds of the Gaza Strip’s only Catholic church.

The patriarchate said no warning was given before the shooting started, adding: ‘They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents.’

Italy’s top diplomat, Antonio Tajani, issued a ‘heartfelt appeal to the Israeli government and army to protect Christian places of worship’.

‘That is not where the Hamas terrorists are hiding,’ he said on X, formerly Twitter.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, it is a war crime to ‘intentionally direct attacks against protected objects, namely buildings dedicated to religion’.

Civilian buildings – like hospitals – can lose their protected status if there is evidence they are being used for military purposes.

The IDF separately acknowledged the deaths of three Israeli hostages in Gaza yesterday, expressing its ‘deep remorse over the tragic incident’ in a statement and saying it had launched an immediate investigation.

Yotam Haim, Samer Fouad Talalka and Alon Lulu Shamriz, were shot dead as they surrendered with makeshift white flags on Friday morning around 10am.

According to a senior official in the IDF’s southern command, the incident began after a soldier from Bislamach Brigade’s 17th Battalion identified three suspicious figures leaving a building.

A preliminary IDF investigation revealed the men were shirtless, wielding white flags and calling out for help in Hebrew. An IDF soldier, believing it was a trap, opened fire and shouted ‘terrorists!’ to colleagues.

IDF Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said: ‘This is a tragic incident, the IDF bears responsibility. This is an area where the soldiers encountered many terrorists, including suicide bombers.’

Protestors took to the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel last night to call for another ceasefire and the safe return of hostages. 

Earlier today, pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched on the home of the Israeli ambassador to the UK following her comments opposing a ceasefire earlier this week.

Hundreds gathered outside the Camden home of Tzipi Hotovely and chanted ‘de-decolonise’ and ‘ceasefire now’, with passing cars honking their horns in support.

One man with a megaphone in north London said: ‘Many of you have seen the ambassador of Israel and concluded she is not a very nice person.

‘So she may not be a very nice person but what we object to is that she is calling for a genocide.’

LEFT: Yotam Haim. CENTRE: Samer Fouad Al-Talalka. RIGHT: Alon Lulu Shamriz. The three Israeli hostages were shot dead by the IDF on Friday

Sabina Fernandez, five, holds a banner during a demonstration to show support for Palestinians and solidarity with children in Gaza, in Madrid, Spain, December 16, 2023

Pro-Palestine protesters gather outside the residence of Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely after she made comments rejecting the two-state solution, December 16, 2023

Protestors called for a ceasefire outside the Camden home of Ms Hotovely this evening

In late November, 78 Israeli and dual-national hostages were released as part of a Qatar-mediated deal between Israel and Hamas. Israel in turn released 240 Palestinian prisoners.

A total of 110 hostages have now been released – including those freed as part of separate deals with the Thai government and as a gesture to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Many families of captives have urged their government to do more to ensure their return. During a meeting with the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet last Tuesday, one former hostage warned against Israel’s proposals of flooding Hamas’ underground tunnels with sea water.

‘He was taken to the tunnels, and you talk about washing the tunnels with seawater. You prioritize politics over the hostages!’ she was reported as saying. ‘My husband hurt himself every day until he bled because [the situation] was hard for him to bear, and now he is alone, god knows in what conditions.

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