After shooting of women at Catholic church, killing in Gaza must end now

The Irish News view: Shooting of women in Catholic church compound is latest horror inflicted in Gaza

Protesters marched from Queen's University to the US Consulate in South Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)

While a sea of suffering has swept over Gaza in the last 10 weeks, the killing of two women in the grounds of a Catholic church provides further distressing evidence of the appalling conditions faced by those living with the reality of Israel’s devastating air and ground assault.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem reported that an Israel Defence Forces sniper shot dead the Christian mother and daughter at Holy Family Parish, Gaza’s only Catholic church.

It said one of the women was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety, while seven more people were shot and wounded as they tried to protect others inside the compound, where many Christian families have been taking refuge.

The women were said to have been shot “in cold blood” and without warning, while IDF rockets also hitting a convent on Saturday, displacing 54 vulnerable people with disabilities.

The head of the Irish Catholic Church, Dr Eamon Martin, was among those to express his heartbreak at the deaths. People across Ireland will join him in prayers for those affected and his call for an immediate cessation of the violence which has killed thousands in Gaza and forced almost two million to flee their homes.

There are tentative signs that the Israeli government is coming under pressure to scale back its indiscriminate campaign, triggered by the barbaric October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

Khalid El-Astal, who has lost family members in Gaza. is comforted after speaking outside the US Consulate in Belfast. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN (Mal McCann)

The British government, which has been one of Israel’s strongest supporters, signalled a change in tone yesterday when foreign secretary Lord Cameron spoke of the need for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

He pointed out that Israel cannot win if it destroys the prospect of peaceful co-existence with Palestinians.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also faces anger at home after it emerged that three hostages mistakenly shot by Israeli troops had been waving a white flag and were shirtless when they were killed.

With American military and diplomatic support vital to the continuation of Israel’s campaign, it is anticipated he will come under further pressure when US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visits the region this week.

The overwhelming desire around the world for an end to the violence and suffering was expressed at a rally in Belfast yesterday which heard from Belfast-born Khalid El-Astal, who has lost his wife, mother and brother in the conflict and now finds himself unable to contact his father.

For Khalid and for all the people of Gaza and Israel it is imperative that the killing now stops and attempts to find a peaceful resolution begin.