Outrage as Israel spokesperson suggests MP Layla Moran 'lied' about family's Gaza ordeal
The MP for Oxford and Abingdon told UK television this week that her grandmother, her cousin and his wife, and their 11-year-old twins, are among the hundreds of people who have taken shelter in the Holy Family Church in Gaza City since the start of the war.
A mother and a child there were shot dead by Israeli snipers positioned outside the church in western Gaza City on Saturday, as they reportedly tried to reach the bathroom outside a two-hour window Israel said it wouldn't fire on people inside the complex.
Moran said her family and other civilians trapped in the church are just days away from dying due to a lack of food and water and questioned why civilians at a church would ever be fired on.
"I am desperately worried for my extended family in Gaza City. They have no electricity, no water, no food, and now a sniper is inside the Church compound where they are sheltering," the British-Palestinian MP tweeted.
"My family are not collateral damage. We need an immediate bilateral ceasefire now."
Update: a tank has taken position outside the church and the building opposite has been taken. The people inside have died. There are snipers at every window pointing into the church. Still shooting anyone emerging from buildings to use eg toilets. Still no food or water. https://t.co/4YOSUIxcMx— Layla Moran 🔶 (@LaylaMoran) December 17, 2023
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem confirmed the killing of the mother and daughter at the church, while Pope Francis also deplored their deaths.
Despite this, Israel's military issued a statement denying that the killings took place while Israeli spokesperson Eylon Levy suggested Moran was lying.
"During the dialogue between the IDF and representatives of the community, no reports of a hit on the church, nor civilians being injured or killed, were raised," the Israeli military said. "A review of the IDF's operational findings support this."
Moran pointed out that the incident Israel said it was investigating took place in Rimal, Gaza City, while the church her family is sheltering is located in Zeitoun - a different neighbourhood.
While there is a school named Holy Family Church in Rimal, this is a different location from the place of worship where her family is staying.
Later Israel claimed that an incident took place at the Latin Church in the Shujaiya neighbourhood involving Israeli troops and Hamas fighters. Again this is a separate church, located in the east of the city.
Moran has raised the alarm about the desperate conditions faced by civilians trapped in the church and parish leaders there have ensured there is no Hamas presence in the complex and that all people sheltering there are known to the community.
Mosques and churches have been repeatedly targeted by Israeli forces in the 73-day assault, which has killed at least 19,500 Palestinians, the vast majority women and children.
In October, an Israeli strike hit the Saint Porphyrius church, the oldest in-use Christian place of worship in the world, as 500 Palestinian civilians sheltered inside.
Palestinian civilians who have lost their homes during the war have sought refuge in places of worship, hospitals, and schools, despite the repeated targeting of these facilities by Israel.
On 15 November, Moran told parliament that a relative in Gaza died due to a lack of food and dehydration.