Pope Francis denounces killing of two women in Catholic parish in Gaza

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Pope Francis on Sunday deplored the death of two women in a Catholic parish in Gaza, where he said “defenseless civilians” were targeted by shootings and bombings.

“I continue to receive very serious and painful news from Gaza,” he said at the end of the Angelus prayer. “A mother and her daughter... were killed and other people injured by sniper fire.”

“This happened even inside the parish of the Holy Family where there are no terrorists, but families, children, sick or disabled people,” the pope stressed.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said Saturday that a Christian mother and daughter were shot dead by an Israeli soldier on the grounds of the Gaza Strip’s only Catholic church.

“Around noon (1000 GMT) today... a sniper of the IDF (Israeli army) murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza,” where Christian families have been sheltering since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, the patriarchate said in a statement.

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“Nahida and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked to the Sister’s Convent. One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety,” it added.

Seven more people were wounded by gunfire as they tried to protect others, the statement said.

“Some say it is terrorism, it’s war,” the pontiff said. “Yes, it’s war, it’s terrorism.... let us pray to the Lord for peace,” he added.

According to the Vatican press agency, citing Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, the victims were an elderly woman and her daughter.

The patriarchate said no warning was given before the shooting started, adding that they were “shot in cold blood.”

The Gaza strip has been hard hit by bombardments and ground operations carried out by the Israeli army since the unprecedented October 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli territory.

The attack saw about 1,140 people killed, mostly civilians, and 250 hostages taken, according to the Israeli authorities’ latest figures.

According to Hamas, Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed 18,800 people, mostly women and children.

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