Argentinean priest Fr Jorge Hernandez, pastor of Holy Family Parish in the Gaza strip, has decided to stay with his parishioners despite three missile strikes near his parish earlier this week, reports the Catholic News Agency.
'Crime is on the rise. Little children are getting sick from fear, stress, shockwaves and the continuous noise,' he said in an online statement. 'Parents are doing everything possible to distract them so that this crude violence does not overwhelm them.'
Since July 7 Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 1,300 rockets on Israel, and the Israelis have responded with nearly 2,000 airstrikes. The recent escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas followed the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.
Thousands of Israeli soldiers invaded the Gaza Strip July 17 in an effort to destroy Hamas' weapons arsenals and their tunnels into Israel. Earlier that day, 13 Hamas militants attempted to enter Israel through one tunnel, only to be stopped by an Israeli military strike.
Several days ago, the Missionaries of Charity brought 28 handicapped children and nine women under their care to the parish because they considered it to be a safer place. They all plan to remain in Gaza with Fr Hernandez.
The five-hour truce to allow humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip was also a window for hundreds of people to evacuate.
Among those who were told to leave their homes were three Argentinean nuns from the Institute of the Word Incarnate who also work at the parish. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem began permanent Eucharist adoration at the parish and a special Mass 'to pray for forgiveness for all, for justice and peace,' was celebrated there on July 16.
FULL STORY Amid violence, priest opts to stay with parishioners in Gaza (CNA)