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Catholic nuns prepare to leave Gaza

By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 July, 2014

Gaza bombardment. Image courtesy: The Guardian

Gaza bombardment. Image courtesy: The Guardian

Source: Catholic Near East Welfare Association/RTE/ACN

Vatican Radio has reported that a group of Catholic nuns in Gaza is preparing to leave amid concerns that Israel is set to escalate its campaign.

On Thursday evening, the Israeli government announced that a ground offensive would get underway following the collapse of the latest ceasefire.

The Israeli military says Gaza militants have fired more than 1,300 rockets into Israel.

Palestinian officials say 233 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes so far.

One Israeli civilian has been killed by fire from rocket fire Gaza.

Three nuns of the Institute of the Word Incarnate have been working at the Holy Family parish in Gaza.

Their decision to leave follows the multiple Israeli air strikes on Wednesday evening that destroyed a neighbour’s home.

According to Fides, the Sisters, who are all foreigners, received a telephone call from the Israelis advising them to leave.

Meanwhile, the Missionaries of Charity and the 28 disabled children and 9 elderly people in their care have taken refuge in the Holy Family parish.

It is expected that they will remain in Gaza together with the parish priest Fr Jorge Hernandez.

Fr Jorge reports that the “smaller children are beginning to get sick from fear, stress, the blasts, the continuous din. The parents are going to incredible lengths to distract them so that the violence does not overwhelm them, like playing and jumping every time they hear an explosion, dancing or simply hugging them and holding their hands over their ears.”

Earlier today, three Palestinian children were killed after an Israeli aircraft bombed a house in Gaza City. Another two youngsters died in a separate attack.

Gaza officials say at least 40 children have been killed so far in the conflict.

The death of five children on Thursday follows the killing of four boys, aged between nine and 11, on Wednesday in an Israeli raid on a beach in Gaza City.

The Israeli army said the killings appeared to be the “tragic outcome” of a strike targeting Hamas militants.

According to Oliver Maksan, Middle East correspondent of ACN, Christians are a tiny minority in Gaza.

Among an estimated 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza, only 1,300 persons are Christians.

The majority belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church, which has an Archbishop residing in Gaza city.

Only 170 persons belong to the Roman Catholic Church. According to estimates more than the half of Gaza’s Christian population has left since 2005.

The Catholic Church in the Holy Land has called for an immediate ceasefire and a just peace to be implemented.

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