The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Organization in 'disbelief' over hospital attack

‘Disbelief and horror’ follow Oct. 17 airstrike on Gaza hospital

Published: October 26, 2023   
OSV News photo/Mohammed Al-Masri, Reuters
Children sit in the back of an ambulance at Shifa Hospital following an airstrike on the CNEWA-supported al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City Oct. 17.

An attack on a Christian hospital in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war has left staff at the U.S. offices of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association reeling.

"Disbelief and horror," Michael La Civita, director of communications for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, told OSV News, describing his reaction just hours after an Oct. 17 strike on al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

The facility, a humanitarian outreach of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, is Gaza's oldest hospital, and the only Christian one in the enclave. Opened in 1882, al-Ahli Arab — which was a Baptist Medical Mission from 1954 to 1982 — has been "one of the most important institutions in our network of partners for decades," said La Civita. "It's a significant player in the region.”

CNEWA, founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, supports the hospital as part of its overall mission to support the Catholic Church in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

Joseph Hazboun, regional director for CNEWA's Jerusalem office, said the hospital was sheltering more than 5,000 people at the time of the strike.

Causes and casualties have been contested by both sides. Palestinian officials claimed the al-Ahli Arab Hospital had been struck by Israel, killing some 500, while the Israel Defense Forces countered that intelligence showed the blast was due to a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.

The war itself was sparked by Hamas' Oct. 7 ambush on some 22 locations in Israel. Hamas members gunned down civilians and took at least 199 hostages, according to Israel, including infants, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Israel declared war on Hamas Oct. 8, placing Gaza under siege and pounding the region with airstrikes as Hamas returned fire. To date, some 1,400 in Israel, including at least 30 U.S. citizens, and at least 3,500 in Gaza have been killed, according to Palestinian officials. 

"We want Catholics in particular to be paying attention to Catholic news about this, because … it's about as close to the truth as we can possibly get," La Civita said. "It's reliable and objective."

Bishop Taylor wants you to know more about your faith and the Church: Sign up for Arkansas Catholic's free digital edition.

Please read our Comments Policy before posting.

Article comments powered by Disqus