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Gaza Christians bury their first casualty of the war
Published Monday 28/07/2014 (updated) 29/07/2014 11:57
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Missionaries of Charity nuns attend a religious service as part of the
funeral of Jalila Ayyad, a Christian woman whose body was found
under the rubble of her home after an Israeli air strike, on July 27,
2014 in Gaza City (AFP Mohammed Abed)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- Jalila Ayyad's widower George still had a black eye and bloodstains on his shirt as he processed ahead of her coffin, hours after the Israeli airstrike that destroyed their home.

Jalila, 60, was the first Christian casualty of a bloody Gaza war.

She is also survived by two sons, but one could not be at her funeral because he is in hospital with serious wounds suffered in Sunday afternoon's Israeli strike.

The simple coffin -- white with a black cross -- was carried reverently down the marble stairs of the cemetery, and into the chapel of the Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City.

"She died under the rubble," said Jalila's nephew, Fuad Ayyad.

"Both her legs were crushed after the house collapsed with her, her husband and son inside."

An Orthodox priest in a black gown read passages from the Bible and swung an incense receptacle, as the coffin was set down beneath an ornate ceiling of gold leaf images of saints, their names written in Arabic and Greek.

An icon of the Virgin Mary was placed upon Jalila's coffin, and some two dozen relatives sang "Hallelujah" as the afternoon call to prayer rose from the minaret of the adjacent mosque.

Her funeral was a somber affair, but momentarily took on a political dimension when one member of the parish picked up a microphone and railed against Israel's bombardment of the small Palestinian coastal territory.

"This Palestinian Arab Christian woman died in shelling by the Israeli occupation," the speaker shouted angrily.

"There are massacres here every day. This is what happens to the Palestinian people. Where's the world, where's the international community in all this?"

"The bombs hit and kill -- they don't discriminate between civilian or militant," he said.

Dwindling Christian community

A relative, George Ayyad, agreed wholeheartedly. He dismissed the idea that Jalila's death would force more of the already dwindling Christian population out of Gaza.

"If we leave, that's exactly what the Israelis want. Anyway, where are we supposed to go? This is my homeland," he said.

"We Christians have been in Gaza for more than 1,000 years, and we're staying."

Her nephew Fuad was not so sure.

"Things like this make me want to just get out of here," he said.

Gaza's Christians have dwindled in number to around 1,500, most of them Greek Orthodox, out of a predominantly Sunni Muslim population of 1.7 million in the densely packed enclave.

The Christian community in Gaza City, like its counterparts elsewhere in the Middle East, has been shrinking because of both conflict and unemployment.

The ancient Mediterranean seafront city once had a thriving Christian community, especially under British-mandated Palestine that ended in 1948 with the creation of Israel.

Jalila's coffin was carried into the small church cemetery, which was itself hit by an Israeli shell earlier in the week, and lowered into the ground.

The community's first casualty was born in Jerusalem and also had French nationality, the family said.

The war has killed more than 1,030 Palestinians, most of them civilians including a large number of women and children, 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians inside Israel.

"Today ... another human being, an innocent one, has lost her life," Archbishop Alexios said.

1 ) Carol Scheller / Switzerland
28/07/2014 12:13
One of the coffin bearers who I saw on tv was the Reverand Jorge Hernandez, pastor of the Holy Family Church of Gaza.

2 ) Uncle Sufa / USA
28/07/2014 12:39
There is only a small dwindling community of 1500 Christian people left in Gaza. Following the takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Hamas attempted to implement Islamic law in the Gaza Strip, mainly at schools, institutions and courts by imposing the Islamic dress or hijab on women.Hamas government has imposed strict rules on women, discouraged activities commonly associated with Christian culture, oppressed Christians, imposed sharia law, and deployed religious police to enforce these laws

3 ) vxen / usa
28/07/2014 17:10
Uncle Sufa Have some compassion to the people that has been massacred, this mantra sounds cold. The world has come to know who is the criminal here.

4 ) Hanna / Gaza
28/07/2014 17:47
Bullshit. I am a Christian Gazan. Hamas does not impose anything on us. We live in peace with our Muslim brothers. We are becoming less in numbers because of the occupation.

5 ) John / Sweden
28/07/2014 17:56
That's nonsense, no such moves have been taken, Hamas has not done any of that. Many Muslim children in Gaza attend Christian schools (both Catholic and Orthodox), and in no way has Hamas sought to enforce hijab or other Islamic practices on the Christian minority.

6 ) Carol Scheller / Switzerland
28/07/2014 17:56
Christian women do not cover their hair with a shawl in the street and often wear a little cross around their neck as in the West Bank. They are respected and not harassed at all. I lived in Gaza for extended periods for more than once and attended concerts and social events at the Catholic Church with Muslim and Christian friends. The government does not interfere in Christian community matters and respects this part of the Gazan society.

7 ) Rami / Palestine
28/07/2014 18:51
#2 Dear Uncle B.S. in USA, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about but then again, how could you, living in the comfort of your quant little home in suburbia, USA? I think you should see Gaza for yourself and meet the people before you open your dumb uneducated mouth.

8 ) Trina / US
28/07/2014 19:12
@2 you are a liar Hamas has done nothing of the sort. Gazan Christians are Palestinians and they are protected by Hamas and they so not interfere in their matter. It's sick that you have to resort to lies but then again that is the Zionist fantasy all along!

9 ) Mel / USA
28/07/2014 19:26
#2:Uncle:So full of BS! If any have RESPECTED Palestinian Christians,it's Palestinian Muslims.U forget,we share the SAME RESPECT&COURTESY for God/Allah.Christian,Judeo-prophets&saints are respected by Palestine.Before b*st*rd Zionism came to Palestine;Muslims,Christians & Jews co-existed,worked,lived in peace &mutual respect.PALESTINE IS MORE THAN HAMAS which thankgoodness Palestine has as RESISTANCE vs.savage Judeo-Zionism which'd murder more Christians,if not for CZUFI donors!You're a ZioBOT!

10 ) mexica / mexico
28/07/2014 22:41
#2 uncle sufa you probably get your news and information from usa media network . YOU ARE BRAIN DEAD. to much cnn news.

11 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
28/07/2014 23:22
And sorry, #4, but there are now more Palestinians in Gaza than ever before in the history of the world. Occupation shmocupation - you simply are not having enough kids. Same problem in Christian Europe. Similar problem in Israel. Your Muslim neighbors are having 10 kids and you are having only 2. Then again, we all know about the harassment of Christians in Gaza, the attacks on the bookstore, the murder. The rest of the world sees what Jihadists do to Christians. Hamas is no different.

12 ) Dahlia / Sweden
28/07/2014 23:56
Jalila Ayyad (God rest her soul), may have been a Christian, but she died because she was a Palestinian. Those who support Israel's war on Gaza, don't care about her religious faith, even though most of them profess to practice it. Sad indictment of humanity.

13 ) Joseph / UK
29/07/2014 00:43
May Christians and Muslims continue to stand together with the resistance against the Zionist enemy. The resistance is for all Palestinians regardless of religion!!!!!

14 ) Randi / NJ
29/07/2014 08:59
if you leave? there's nowhere to go. My sincerest condolences. leaving would be to the W.B but? emptying Gaza of Christians is what the IDF is planning as well as Muslims. in English: shoot first, ask questions later.

15 ) Randi / NJ
29/07/2014 09:04
@all: please have some restraint here in this comment forum. is he wrong? Yep, but i think Mel's point is clear: no matter who you are, no matter where you live in Gaza? it's the IDF that imposes. obey or try to run a govt? either way it's never over nior =. right?
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