Gaza's oldest church shelters Christians, Muslims after false rumors of destruction: report

Palestinian Christians attend the Orthodox Christmas mass at the Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City on January 7, 2023.
Palestinian Christians attend the Orthodox Christmas mass at the Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City on January 7, 2023. | MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

A Greek Orthodox church in Gaza that was falsely rumored to have been destroyed amid the ongoing war between Hamas and Israel is reportedly sheltering people of multiple faiths seeking safe haven from the conflict.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrios, the oldest church in Gaza, was rumored on social media last week to have been damaged during Israel's shelling of the region, according to The Associated Press.

Church officials confirmed that the church, which is in the al-Zaytun section of Gaza’s Old City, was unharmed by the Israeli bombing of the Hamas-controlled territory, the AP reported.

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The church is named for St. Porphyrios, who served as bishop of Gaza from A.D. 395 to 420. The present structure, which Crusaders built in the 1100s, was constructed on the former site of an earlier church that dates as far back as the fifth century.

A priest at the church named Father Elias claimed to the Qatari state-owned news outlet Al Jazeera that the Israeli military "has bombed many places of sanctuary," and that he is "not sure that Israel won’t bomb the church."

Elias maintained to the outlet that any attack on the church "would not only be an attack on religion, which is a vile deed, but also an attack on humanity."

"Our humanity calls us to offer peace and warmth to everyone in need," the priest added.

George Shabeen, a Palestinian Christian and father whose street was reportedly hit multiple times by Israeli air raids, told Al Jazeera that his family's lives were saved by the shelter the church offered.

“During the night, we huddle together, Muslims and Christians, old and young, and pray for safety and peace,” Shabeen told the outlet.

St. Porphyrios also served as a place of refuge for Palestinian Muslims seeking refuge from Israeli bombardment in 2014, according to Reuters.

Violence has continued to roil the region after Hamas militants invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 people, including 30 Americans, and more than 3,400 were wounded. Hamas is also holding as many as 199 people hostage, some of whom are Americans. Israeli forces claim over 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in the attack.

Israel retaliated with airstrikes that it said were aimed at Hamas infrastructure and locations in Gaza where the terrorists hide out.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, over 2,700 Palestinians have been killed and over 9,900 wounded in the conflict so far.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement Sunday that at least 30 Americans have been killed in Israel and at least 13 are missing.

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached via email at

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