Displaced Palestinians sleep on the floor inside Gaza City’s Greek Orthodox church on July 23, 2014. AFP Photo
Desperate Gazans escaping from Beit Hanoun and Shejaia, where more than 70 Palestinians – many of them women and children – were killed on July 20, have entered the Church of Saint Porphyrius after Archbishop Alexios opened the door.
The church is in Gaza’s historical district of Zeitoun which has a 1,400-person community and stands back to back with the Khatib Vilaye Mosque.
When a group of people came from Shejaia and discussed where they would take shelter and whether the church would allow them to stay, Alexios opened the door and extended a warm welcome. Some human rights groups have already begun providing aid.
A teacher from Shejaia, Mahmoud Abu Zehra, said his family of 22 had taken shelter in the church.
“We were able to escape from Shejaia when there was a truce. They destroyed our house but thanks to Allah there are no casualties,” he said. “In normal conditions we wouldn’t knock on the door of the church. Muslims go to a mosque and Christians go to a church, but there is no problem between us; we are all part of Palestine,” he added.
Muhammad Zanu, a resident from Beit Hanoun, said they tried to resist the Israeli bombardment but had to escape the neighborhood after a house near his residence was hit by a tank shell.
Since the start of the offensive, more than 100,000 Palestinians – about 6 percent of Gaza’s entire population – have sought shelter with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), crowding into 70 schools.