ISRAELI MISSILE STRIKES ANGLICAN CHURCH IN GAZA

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GAZA, Jan 24, 03 (CWNews.com) - An Israeli missile fired at
an alleged Palestinian weapons factory hit an Anglican
church in Gaza City on Friday, but did not explode.

The helicopter-launched missile hit the roof of St.
Philip's church and made a five-foot crater in the floor.
No one was injured. Israeli Brigadier-General Tzvika Fogel
told Reuters that helicopters had fired five missiles at a
suspected Palestinian weapons factory. But he said two of
the missiles malfunctioned and one landed "in the vicinity"
of St Philip's.

"We are going to raise hell," Anglican Bishop Riah Abu El
Assal of Jerusalem said. "Israelis do a lot of talking
about being nice but apparently they can't distinguish
between a church and a foundry." The church compound
includes a hospital and officials said a woman receiving
treatment there died of a heart attack.

====
Episcopal Church and Hospital Destroyed by Israeli Missile Attack
---------------------------------

St. Philip's Church/Ahli Arab Hospital Sustains a direct hit by a guided missile

There is broken glass everywhere; on the floors, covering the tables, covering papers, on beds. The Christian leaders of Gaza have gathered to
offer their support and condemn the bombing of St. Philip's Episcopal Church, located within the Ahli Arab Hospital compound. The Church is in the
center of the hospital complex, and surrounded by buildings flying the Red Cross and Anglican flags. All day a steady flow of friends and visitors
came to say Thank God you are safe.

At about 2:15 last night, Dr. Salah, Ahli Arab Hospital's physician on call, awoke to the sound of an explosion in the distance. The next explosion was nearer and louder, and the electricity failed. Within the next few minutes he saw the distinctive light of a missile approaching. As he lay in his
third floor bed, he watched as the missile passed within 10 meters of his head and hit St. Philip's Church. It came slowly, and he describes the
storm of wind and glass passing like a train through his bedroom. There was glass everywhere; in his bed, in his hair, covering the floor.

An elderly woman had arrived at the emergency room, just prior to the attack. She came because she was terrified, and was suffering from high
blood pressure. The doctor began to examine her and just then the missile hit next door, and throwing him to the ground. It took a few minutes for
the electrical generator to come on, and by the time he was able to get to her, she had died. She died of fear.

Built at the turn of the last century, St. Philip's Episcopal Church was reconsecrated in 1996, by Bishops Samir Kafity and Riah Abu El-Assal, in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey; The Presiding Bishop of the US, Edmund Browning, and thirty-four other Primates of the Anglican Communion, along with President Arafat. Its century old stained class windows were shattered, and crystal from its chandeliers littered the floor. The missile entered through the roof, and left a meter wide hole in the floor. The alter was covered with plaster and a nearby hymnal pierced with shrapnel. Suhaila Tarazi, Ahli director, said she collected money from so many individuals who supported the renovation of the Church, and in a minute it is gone. The building was structurally reinforced with the remodeling, but it is an old building, and the walls showed numerous deep cracks.

The destruction did not stop with the Church. The Pediatric Clinics were damaged as well, with the collapse of the false ceiling and ventilation
system. Throughout the hospital; the physical therapy building, the staff accommodations, the laboratory, medical records, the morgue, the library ­
glass littered the floors, windows were broken, doors separated from their frames by the force of the blast. The damage to the hospital is extensive,
and many more old buildings showed structural cracks. Boys from the neighborhood collected shrapnel.

Everyone at the Hospital today spoke about why this happened. No one could imagine it was an accident. The area surrounding the Church was covered with the wire filaments that come from guided missiles. Hospital employees pointed out that they are nowhere near other apartment buildings, government or military facilities. Consensus was that this was a precisely targeted attack, how could it be otherwise? Apache helicopters had not only fired the missile, they had returned to film the results of their attack. These were shown on early morning Israeli television.

Dr. Salah continued, Ahli Arab Hospital is like a small family, we all feel connected. I have been through so many attacks, but never imagined our
hospital would be hit, or the Church. It is a holy place. We are strong, we will survive. The hospital is running and it is going to continue to run for
a long time.  Dr. Nabila, an internist, is Ahli's only female physician. Last night tanks surrounded her family's four story apartment building. They were given five minutes to evacuate, leaving with only the nightclothes they wore. The entire neighborhood was evacuated. Those who specialize in destruction then entered to plant vacuum bombs, which destroyed the building with such force that cement blocks are scattered over a kilometer. Today the streets are filled with neighbors and friends who are staring at the destruction, while children gather to look.

Suhaila Tarazi moved through the different buildings of the hospital, shaking hands, accepting words of support from the steady stream of
visitors, staff and neighbors. God forgive them they do not know what they are doing. I will repeat the words of Jesus on the day he was crucified. Despite this we will continue our mission of love and peace to all people. I call upon our friends, all over the world, to keep us in your prayers and help us to overcome this tragedy. To work hard with us, because I am sure that one day peace will prevail.
 

Jonathan Partridge/Nancy Dinsmore
=====
 Bishop of Jerusalem: BOMBING OF ST. PHILIP'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH & AHLI ARAB HOSPITAL, GAZA
Date: 1/27/2003 6:59:11 AM Pacific Standard Time

Notes: Dr. Araxi is the parishioner referred to below.

The building shown ten metres behind the church in the first picture is the hospital. Did the Israelis deliberately pinpoint the Anglican church and hospital, or is this a more random bombing, this time into a hospital compound on the central square of the densely populated Gaza City? The implications of either scenario, in this too often repeated act of Israeli terrorism, are rather sinister: either the hospital and church are targets of Israel, or the random spraying of air-to-ground missiles into the centre of the city by the government of Israel recognizes the defining characteristic of the inevitable victims -- “non-Jews” (an official Israeli classification) -- as being the wrong ethnicity/religion.

Take your pick.     Robert+

Dr. Araxi choked back tears as she expressed her disbelief over the bombing.  Despite her sadness, she was happy that the missile did not harm doctors, or patients in the hospital next door.  ‘The church was a sacrifice for the people’, she said.
 

From: "Development Office, Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem"<devedjer@netvision.net.il>

January 27, 2003

Update on the bombing of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church & Ahli Arab Hospital, Gaza

Dear Friends,
 

Salaam and grace in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ and blessed greetings to you from Jerusalem.
 

My heartfelt appreciation for the many telephone calls, faxes and emails expressing your support and solidarity over the bombing attack on St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, on Friday January 24th. Your prayers are very much appreciated and truly make a difference in these difficult times.
 

Many of you have asked how you can help.  I encourage you to write letters to your congressmen, senators, members of parliament and other elected officials, as well as to the Israeli ambassador in your country.  Denounce this barbaric attack on our Church and Hospital.  At present the Israeli military has not admitted to perpetuating this heinous act, much less apologize.  We insist on a claim of responsibility and full restitution for damages to both St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and Ahli Arab Hospital.  I am in the process of filing a court case over this event, and hold the government of Israel responsible for all damages.  This is not only a violation of the IV Geneva Convention, but a Grave Breach as stipulated in Article 147, and therefore a war crime.
 

Simply, the Ahli staff remains in shock. We have discovered that many of their major pieces of equipment have been harmed in the attack, especially the x-ray equipment. Damage has come from both the electrical surge and penetration by a multitude of glass shards, which struck with great force.

Friday night was another difficult night for the patients and staff of Ahli.  A large number of Israeli tanks came within thirty meters of the entrance to the hospital, making it impossible for either staff or those seeking health care to enter or leave the hospital, for over four hours.   In addition, movement within the hospital compound was impossible due to the presence of Apache helicopters directly overhead, and fears that movement would be traced and answered with shooting.
 

The hospital gateman, Mounir, sustained a bullet wound to his head during the night, and remains hospitalized in a coma.  Please keep him, and his family in your prayers.

Dr. Araxi sits on the board of Ahli Arab Hospital and is the only Anglican in Gaza.  She has attended St. Philip’s since she was three years old, and has fond memories of the church services. She recalls attending Sunday school as a child and latter attending Bible studies, when the Baptist Church ran the church and hospital for a few decades.  Dr. Araxi tries to attend services at St. Philip’s whenever possible, which also attract an ecumenical mix of Catholic and Orthodox Christians. The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has not succeeded in obtaining the necessary permit from the Israeli authorities that would allow a Palestinian priest to travel to Gaza from either Israel or the West Bank; consequently worship services are sporadic and occur only when a foreign priest is visiting Gaza.  Dr. Araxi choked back tears as she expressed her disbelief over the bombing.  Despite her sadness, she was happy that the missile did not harm doctors, or patients in the hospital next door.  ‘The church was a sacrifice for the people’, she said.

Many of you have further asked how you can assist us financially with the rebuilding of St. Philip’s and in repair of the damage to Ahli, until the time that we have the compensation in hand.  The Gaza municipality is working with Ahli Arab Hospital in calculating a precise estimate of the damages.  There is great concern that cracks evident in the walls of the administration building will render the foundation of the second story unstable.  The roof of St. Philip’s remains in a critical position.   As soon as the evaluation of damage is complete, I will share the results with you.  Even now, we are certain that the cost of repair will be significant.

Five years ago, the municipality of Gaza built a market complex to bring together many small-scale merchants that were spread over the city. Israeli forces have also burned this to the ground, destroying five hundred shops and all their contents. Consequently, five hundred Gazan families have now lost their savings and means of support.

I ask that you continue to stand with us in denouncing all acts of violence, and in condemning the intentional bombing of both Ahli Arab Hospital and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.  Please join us in our ever-vigilant prayers for peace and justice, for all people of this troubled land.

Know that this comes with my prayers and best wishes,

In Christ,

+ The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal

 For further information, contact:

Nancy Dinsmore

Development Office

Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

Email devedjer@netvision.net.il

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Friends,

I must say this cuts close to the heart, personally. It reminds us not take for granted our church, our freedoms to exist and to worship.

St. Philips was founded as a result of a voice in the wilderness — in 1993 a woman in was Gaza shocked to find out that I was an Anglican priest visiting Gaza occasionally, when they had not had communion in 15 years! She asked me to bring her and her family communion whenever I came. Within a month, with the Bishop’s permission and encouragement, we held a full Eucharist service in her living room. As we regularized the service to every second Sunday evening, she invited others and we often were 10-12. Bishop Kafity informally named me Vicar of Gaza. By the time I left in 1995, the renovation of the old church building had begun and was well under way, largely due to the determination of this one particular woman. It was consecrated six months later (see below). In 1999, Bishop Baycroft celebrated the Eucharist at St. Philip’s with the group from this Diocese and a very grateful local congregation, the first celebration there in several months. I was blessed to have celebrated at the altar in 2001, with a small group from the Diocese and dozens of all denominations locally.

The tiny but profoundly prominent Christian minority in Gaza continues to be tremendously valued by the Muslim majority for their witness of service and reconciliation. It is hard to imagine in our society an identifiable community of less than 1/2% of a population being so widely respected and integral to the well-being of the whole community, and under such trying circumstances.

Because of the restrictions of the Israeli occupier, these people were virtually imprisoned in Gaza and could not come to Jerusalem, even for Easter. As Sunday is a work day, the service was at 5pm, or whenever I could arrive — trying to get into Gaza with all the hassles from the soldiers. Sometimes with round the clock curfews, I was not permitted to enter. The service had to be over by 6pm, so a most important cultural rite, the meal, could be shared. It was rushed however, 15-20 minutes, as the daily curfew began at 7pm, by which time I had to be across the checkpoint. Curfew violation could bring execution by the Israeli soldiers. Indeed, once, before the checkpoint we were shot at by the soldiers in the dark (warning shot perhaps, or bad aim?) when we couldn’t make out the garbled orders over a megaphone or even know they were directed at us.

Since St. Philip’s opened, services have been sporadic, as restrictions imposed by the occupier forbid Palestinian clergy to go to Gaza. In light of the destruction, it remains to be seen whether St. Philip’s will be closed.

It has yet been the greatest privilege of my ministry, and may ever be so, to have been priest and pastor to this house church which preceded St. Philip’s.

The attack on the church and the Anglican hospital was only part of ongoing brutal attacks on a civilian population, in which this time 15 persons including a mother of four children were killed and several dozens injured. It strikes home because Anglican institutions were hit. For those interested in the legalities, this is not only a violation of the IV Geneva Convention, but a Grave Breach as stipulated in Article 147, and therefore a war crime, punishable in Canada under the Geneva Conventions Act of Parliament by 14 years to life.

I hope that more than our prayers — our whole selves, our souls and bodies — may be stirred to become active for a just peace in Palestine and Israel. It is important to remember that while the 35-year illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has been devastating for Palestinians, actions such as the one below — a deliberate, democratically endorsed policy of destructive brutality by a nation state government -- are also deleterious to the well-being and what is left of the moral fibre of Israel. As one rabbi told a group of ours, “Israel may have a right to exist, but as it has sunk to so low as to be an occupier, has it lost its very reason to exist?”

Shalom,

Robert+
===
January 27, 2003

from + The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal
 
 
 
 

Update on the bombing of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church & Ahli Arab Hospital, Gaza
 
 

Dear Friends,
 
 

Salaam and grace in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ and blessed greetings to you from Jerusalem.
 

My heartfelt appreciation for the many telephone calls, faxes and emails expressing your support and solidarity over the bombing attack on St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, on Friday January 24th.  Your prayers are very much appreciated and truly make a difference in these difficult times.
 

Many of you have asked how you can help.  I encourage you to write letters to your congressmen, senators, members of parliament and other elected officials, as well as to the Israeli ambassador in your country.  Denounce this barbaric attack on our Church and Hospital.  At present the Israeli military has not admitted to perpetuating this heinous act, much less apologize.  We insist on a claim of responsibility and full restitution for damages to both St. Philip’s Episcopal Church and Ahli Arab Hospital.  I am in the process of filing a court case over this event, and hold the government of Israel responsible for all damages.  This is not only a violation of the IV Geneva Convention, but a Grave Breach as stipulated in Article 147, and therefore a war crime.
 

Simply, the Ahli staff remains in shock.  We have discovered that many of their major pieces of equipment have been harmed in the attack, especially the x-ray equipment. Damage has come from both the electrical surge and penetration by a multitude of glass shards, which struck with great force.
 

St. Philip’s Church roof, showing entrance of the guided missile

Friday night was another difficult night for the patients and staff of Ahli.  A large number of Israeli tanks came within thirty meters of the entrance to the hospital, making it impossible for either staff or those seeking health care to enter or leave the hospital, for over four hours.   In addition, movement within the hospital compound was impossible due to the presence of Apache helicopters directly overhead, and fears that movement would be traced and answered with shooting.
 
 

The hospital gateman, Mounir, sustained a bullet wound to his head during the night, and remains hospitalized in a coma.  Please keep him, and his family in your prayers.

 Dr. Araxi sits on the board of Ahli Arab Hospital and is the only Anglican in Gaza.  She has attended St. Philip’s since she was three years old, and has fond memories of the church services. She recalls attending Sunday school as a child and latter attending Bible studies, when the Baptist Church ran the church and hospital for a few decades.  Dr. Araxi tries to attend services at St. Philip’s whenever possible, which also attract an ecumenical mix of Catholic and Orthodox Christians.  The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has not succeeded in obtaining the necessary permit from the Israeli authorities that would allow a Palestinian priest to travel to Gaza from either Israel or the West Bank; consequently worship services are sporadic and occur only when a foreign priest is visiting Gaza.  Dr. Araxi choked back tears as she expressed her disbelief over the bombing.  Despite her sadness, she was happy that the missile did not harm doctors, or patients in the hospital next door.  ‘The church was a sacrifice for the people’, she said.
 

Many of you have further asked how you can assist us financially with the rebuilding of St. Philip’s and in repair of the damage to Ahli, until the time that we have the compensation in hand.  The Gaza municipality is working with Ahli Arab Hospital in calculating a precise estimate of the damages.  There is great concern that cracks evident in the walls of the administration building will render the foundation of the second story unstable.  The roof of St. Philip’s remains in a critical position.   As soon as the evaluation of damage is complete, I will share the results with you.  Even now, we are certain that the cost of repair will be significant.
 

Five years ago, the municipality of Gaza built a market complex to bring together many small-scale merchants that were spread over the city.  Israeli forces have also burned this to the ground, destroying five hundred shops and all their contents.  Consequently, five hundred Gazan families have now lost their savings and means of support.
 

I ask that you continue to stand with us in denouncing all acts of violence, and in condemning the intentional bombing of both Ahli Arab Hospital and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.  Please join us in our ever-vigilant prayers for peace and justice, for all people of this troubled land.
 

Know that this comes with my prayers and best wishes,

In Christ,

+ The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal

====
Monday, February 03 2003 @ 07:15 AM GMT

(PalestineChronicle.com) - The following is a letter from the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese in Jerusalem And the Middle East, regarding the recent bombing of a church and a hospital in Gaza by the Israeli army.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

-- A Follow Up on the Bombing of St. Philip's Episcopal Church and Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.--

Certainly, it does not bring us any pride neither pleasure to share with you - our family in Christ - such most disturbing news. Nevertheless, it is our obligation to not only spell out the truth but also to firmly stand on the side of truth.

On the morning of January 30th, 2003 we received information that the guided missile which hit our church and hospital in Gaza was one American product. It is of the kind that could be guided and directed by remote controls.

That missile weights 24 Kg. and inside it, it carries 2.8 Kg of explosives. Needless to say, such missile is able to penetrate a steel wall of 60 cm; and up to 120 cm of cement or concrete wall.

Based on the above, and with due respect to all, we appeal to you with great trust to help us stop Israel's military terrorism by cutting down to zero all Israel's requests - made to the Bush Administration - for further foreign military aid.

Sharing such news could be bitter indeed. However, the results of hiding it would be twice as bitter. By standing against all acts of terror, and marching for truth we may help set the world free.

We call upon you to write to your Prime Ministers, Congressmen, Senators - also to the Ambassador of Israel in your country to denounce as well as hold the Israeli armed forces and the Government of Israel responsible for the damage done and to request them to confiscate and restitute.

May God in His mercy bless each and everyone of you with His richest blessings; and continue to make you a blessing unto many.

In Christ,
Riah Abu El-Assal
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese in Jerusalem and the Middle East.