Israeli official brands Gaza church attack 'rather strange' as MP's family shelter with 'snipers pointing guns at them'

18 December 2023, 08:16 | Updated: 18 December 2023, 09:56

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran speaks to Nick Ferrari on her family stuck in Gaza church

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Israeli official brands attack on Gaza church as 'rather strange' as Lib Dem MP says 'only civilians' are inside but IDF spokesperson says Hamas has history of 'hiding in religious sites.'

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The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has condemned the "seemingly deliberate and callous killing" of two women at a Gaza church by sniper fire.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said two Christian women at a church compound in Gaza City were killed on Saturday by Israeli sniper fire and seven others were wounded.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran has said that her relatives are among the Christians who have sought shelter in the Holy Family Church.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Ms Moran said: "Snipers are pointing their guns towards the church."

"The escalation in the last week has been the worst we've seen. On Tuesday there was firing, they reported the use of white phosphorus, and there was a sniper that killed two women, this is what the Pope was referring to."

The MP revealed her family was hiding in "Sunday school rooms" within the church compound.

She said two women were shot while "simply trying to get to the toilet and they were targeted by the sniper."

"The Pope is right, these are only civilians inside this church," she told LBC.

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Nick Ferrari is joined by Israeli spokesperson Eylon Levy

The women were identified as a mother and daughter, with one killed trying to carry the other to safety.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy, told Nick it was a "rather strange incident."

He said while speaking to church officials nobody mentioned "any reports of a hit on the church, civilians being ill, injured or killed."

He said IDF "operational findings support this."

"We know that Hamas has a long, and documented history, of hiding inside sensitive sites, including religious sites."

He told LBC that a "review of the operational findings does not support the allegations presented in that letter by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem."

When Nick pressed Mr Levy on Ms Morans claims a civilian woman was shot while "simply trying to go to the lavatory."

"These are not the findings supported by the IDF, and we know there are many cases of false allegations that have been made before, let me remind you Hamas made up a story of an Israeli airstrike on a hospital, that never happened."

Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols said he was "heartbroken" at the news.

"The information provided by the Cardinal, gives a picture of seemingly deliberate and callous killing by IDF soldiers of innocent civilians: an elderly woman and her daughter in the grounds of a church. This killing has to stop. It can never be justified.

"I ask all people of faith and goodwill to continue to pray for an end to this conflict by all sides."

The statement from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose territory covers Cyprus, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, said the women were killed in "cold blood".

"No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents."

Ms Moran has expressed deep concern about the situation inside the church complex.

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, she said: "Soldiers are at the gates and there was a fire when they hit one of the (already dysfunctional) generators.

"There is no water left. There are 300 people there. We don't know why this is happening. Are they going to be expelled from a church just days before Christmas?"