Gaza’s Christians bury their first casualty of the war | July 27, 2014

"The Christian community in Gaza City, like its counterparts elsewhere in the Middle East, has been shrinking because of both conflict and unemployment. 

The ancient Mediterranean seafront city once had a thriving Christian community, especially under British-mandated Palestine that ended in 1948 with the creation of the Jewish state.

Jalila Ayyad’s widower George still had a black eye and bloodstains on his shirt as he processed ahead of her coffin, hours after the air strike that destroyed their home.

Jalila, 60, was the first Christian casualty of a bloody Gaza war. She is also survived by two sons, but one could not be at her funeral because he is in hospital with serious wounds suffered in Sunday afternoon’s Israeli strike.

The simple coffin — white with a black cross — was carried reverently down the marble stairs of the cemetery, and into the chapel of the Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City. 

"There are massacres here every day. This is what happens to the Palestinian people. Where’s the world, where’s the international community in all this? The bombs hit and kill — they don’t discriminate between civilian or militant," said one member of the parish.

A relative, George Ayyad, agreed wholeheartedly. He dismissed the idea that Jalila’s death would force more of the already dwindling Christian population out of Gaza.

"If we leave, that’s exactly what the Israelis want. Anyway, where are we supposed to go? This is my homeland," he said. "We Christians have been in Gaza for more than 1,000 years, and we’re staying."

The community’s first casualty, Jalila Ayyad, was born in Jerusalem and also had French nationality.” (via AFP

Pictures from the funeral of Jalila Ayyad, 60, the first Christian Palestinian, whose body was found under the rubble of her home after an Israeli airstike, at Saint Porfirios Church in Gaza City on July 27, 2014. The debris of a house belonging to Ayyad family, which was targeted in an Israeli air strike, is also seen above. (Pictures by Suhaib Salem/Reuters | 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Thousands flee Gaza’s Shujaiyah after night of terror | July 20, 2014

They walked in their thousands, barefoot and in their pyjamas, streaming out of the eastern Gaza district of Shujaiyah after a night of non-stop Israeli bombing.

They described hours of terror, as tank shells slammed into homes, with no electricity and no way to escape.They called ambulances, but there was no way for the vehicles to get in under the constant fire.

So in the end, thousands of desperate residents fled on foot at first light, walking two hours or more into Gaza City. They left behind the bodies of the dead in the streets of their neighbourhoods — in Nazzaz, in Shaaf and in other parts of this flashpoint area between Gaza City and the Israeli border.

One of those fleeing was Sabreen Hattad, 34, with her three children. “The Israeli shells were hitting the house. We stayed the night because we were so scared but about six in the morning we decided to escape,” she said. “But where are we supposed to go? The ambulances could not enter and so we ran under shell fire.” Three other men pass by in a hurry clutching bedding in their arms. Asked what they had seen they would only answer: “Death and horror.”

Many of those escaping Shujaiyah made for Gaza’s central Shifa hospital, which was engulfed by chaotic scenes and ambulances ferrying the dead came in a steady steam, among them a local TV cameraman Khaled Hamad and paramedic Fuad Jabir, killed during the overnight offensive, wheeled out wrapped in a bloody plastic shroud. "He wasn’t a fighter, he was a fighter for humanity," wailed one relative as the family buried him. ”He was an ambulance worker, did he deserve to die?” 

Shifa hospital administrator Dr. Hasan Khalas confirmed that 112 Palestinians were killed across Gaza last night, at least 60 dead in Shujaiyah only. Dozens of victims in Shujaiyah haven’t been identified. ”This is the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Doctor Said Hassan, who has worked at the hospital for eight years.

More than 60 Palestinians were killed, including 17 children, and 210 injured in Shujaiyah massacre so far. The ongoing Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip have so far displaced more than 135,000 Palestinians, according to a report. The death toll is expected to rise as Israeli shelling continues and more bodies are uncovered, while today’s total across the Gaza Strip has passed 90 already, bringing the 13-day total death toll to more than 410, with at least 3,000 injured.

Photos:

1. Smoke rises during what witnesses said were heavy Israeli shelling at the Shujaiyah neighbourhood. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

2. A wounded Palestinian man reacts after the death of his relatives, who medics said were killed during heavy Israeli shelling at the Shujaiyah district, at a hospital. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

3. A Palestinian woman wearing clothes stained with the blood of other relatives, who medics said were wounded in Israeli shelling, cries at a hospital. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

4. Palestinians flee the Shujaiyah neighbourhood. (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)

5. A Palestinian woman reacts after the death of her relatives, who medics said were killed during heavy Israeli shelling at the Shujaiyah district, at a hospital. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

6. Palestinians flee the Shujaiyah neighbourhood. (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)

7. A Palestinian woman, who medics said was wounded during heavy Israeli shelling, stands at a hospital. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

8. Palestinians flee the Shujaiyah neighbourhood. (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)

9. Palestinian policemen and medics carry a man, who medics said was wounded in Israeli shelling, at a hospital. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

10. Palestinians flee the Shujaiyah neighbourhood. (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)

Cairo | July 1, 2013

1. Egyptian opposition protesters celebrate on July 1, 2013 in Cairo. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

2. Opponents of Morsi wave national flags during a protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP)

3. A protester reads a newspaper during a sit-in protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

4. Egyptian protesters shout slogans and wave national flags during a demonstration against Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir Square in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Amr Nabil/AP)

5. Egyptian protesters walk past graffiti against President Mohamed Morsi on the wall of the presidential palace in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

6. Protesters take part in a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

7. An Egyptian man shows spent bullet casings outside the burnt headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

8. Military helicopters fly above Tahrir Square while protesters shout slogans against Morsi and Brotherhood during a protest in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

9. A dog wearing a sign around his neck with Arabic that reads, “leave,” accompanies its handler to a protest against Morsi outside the presidential palace in Cairo on July 1, 2013. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

10. A protester holds a cross and Koran during a protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo July 1, 2013. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)