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Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of JerusalemYouTube/Screenshot

(LifeSiteNews) — Catholic leaders in Jerusalem condemned a recent attack by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) on civilians who were trying to access humanitarian aid, though the exact details remain unclear.

A March 1 statement from the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem said the IDF “opened fire on crowds of civilians seeking to receive sacks of flour to feed their starving families.”

“We the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches of Jerusalem, condemn this wanton attack against innocent civilians and call for the warring parties to reach an immediate and lengthy ceasefire that allows for the speedy disbursement of relief supplies through the Gaza strip,” the March 1 letter stated. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa is the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

“Although government spokesmen initially tried to deny the soldiers’ involvement in this incident, later that day Israel’s Minister of National Security not only praised IDF fighters for acting ‘excellently,’ but also attempted to blame the victims for their own demise, charging that they had sought to harm heavily armed soldiers,” the letter stated. “He went on to assail the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza, arguing that it should cease.”

“That stated desire has already become a harsh reality for the half-million remaining in Gaza City, where aid deliveries have nearly halted because of heavy entry restrictions and lack of security escort for the delivery convoys,” the letter stated. “Humanitarian officials have so often warned of siege-induced famine in north Gaza that foreign governments of goodwill have been forced
as a last resort to conduct humanitarian airdrops. Yet these offer only a tiny fraction of the relief that is needed for a remnant civilian population greater than that of Tel Aviv, Israel’s second largest city.”

Help Christians in Gaza to survive ongoing war

The leaders also called for a “negotiated release of those held as captives and prisoners.”

They also highlighted how Christians have been harmed in particular by the war that began on October 7, 2023, when Hamas terrorists attacked civilians in Israel.

They wrote:

While expressing these entreaties on behalf of all innocents suffering from the war, we convey our special prayers of support to the Christian communities in Gaza under our pastoral care. These include the more than 800 Christians who have now taken refuge in St. Porphyrios and Holy Family Churches in Gaza City for nearly five months. We likewise extend these same expressions of solidarity to the intrepid staff and volunteers of the Anglican-run Ahli Hospital, and to the patients they serve.

In issuing the above calls, our ultimate hope is that the end of hostilities, the release of captives, and the care of the downtrodden will open a horizon for serious diplomatic discussions that finally lead to a just and lasting peace here in the land where our Lord Jesus Christ first took up his cross on our behalf. May God grant us all his grace as we seek the
fulfilment of this hopeful Easter vision.

Israel has a different take on the situation.

The IDF said they were trying to control the crowds to protect against a stampede. “We didn’t open fire on those seeking aid. Contrary to the accusations, we didn’t open fire on a humanitarian aid convoy, not from the air and not from land. We secured it so it could reach northern Gaza,” a military spokesman said, as reported by the Associated Press.

The AP talked to one witness who “said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowd as people pulled boxes of flour and canned goods off the trucks, causing the Palestinians to scatter, with some hiding under cars,” the news outlet reported. “After the shooting stopped, people went back to the trucks, and the soldiers opened fire again. He was shot in the leg and fell over, and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off, he said.”

The IDF has been credibly accused of killing women inside a Catholic parish and destroying a home for disabled adults.