Gaza's Christians helping each other stay safe

Palestinian man examines damage

Members of the tiny Christian community in the Gaza Strip have been keeping tabs on each other and lending a helping hand during Israeli airstrikes, but nowhere in the territory is really safe, said a priest at the territory's only Catholic parish.



Father Jorge Hernandez, an Argentine member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, said that one night, after a bomb siren sounded, he helped three Sisters of Charity evacuate 20 handicapped children from their home to his.

'We had to carry all the children in our arms,' Father Hernandez told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview. 'There is no space in my house, so we laid down blankets on the floor and put the children there.

'It was very intense and there was a lot of fear, but the bomb fell farther away,' he said.

Israel has said that its airstrikes in populated areas are targeted to the homes of militants, and they give phone warnings to all civilians in the house to leave the premises before attacking. The airstrikes began July 8.

While some people leave after the phone calls, there have been reports of others climbing on the roofs of houses to act as human shields. Almost half of the more than 100 Gazan dead are civilians, including women and children.

Father Hernandez said that three Gaza neighbourhoods had been warned to evacuate, but there are no safety zones large enough for all the residents. Instead, the people seek refuge in government - and UN -run school buildings, he said.

'Everything is so close there is no place for them to go,' he said. 'They are 100,000 people who have been told to leave, and then there is the problem of food and water for them. It is an enormous problem.'

FULL STORY Phone calls, evacuations: Gaza's Christians work together to stay safe (Catholic News Service)