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Three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting left Gaza's beleaguered Christian community beginning 2009 in their worst situation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

"We as Palestinian Christians are very saddened to see those on both sides killed from bombing and rockets lobbed back and forth, but Israel has exaggerated their response," said Hanna Massad, exiled pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, the only evangelical congregation in the 25-mile coastal strip. "We weep for the Israelis who have died, but the suffering is much more on the Gazans."

The January 18 ceasefire ended a 22-day Israeli offensive that killed 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and injured and displaced thousands in an attempt to end years of Hamas rockets into southern Israel.

Christian humanitarian aid trickled into Gaza through limited checkpoints during the shaky ceasefire. Much of Gaza remained without electricity or running water. Bakeries saw hundreds wait hours in line for bread.

Israeli missiles hit Hamas targets but also destroyed civilian buildings in the densely packed territory, including a Christian medical clinic in Shijaiya that had provided free health care to the poor since 1968. Atallah Tarazi, a Christian surgeon at Gaza City's Shifaa Hospital, said two ambulances were hit and six of his paramedics killed, and lamented the high percentage of civilian casualties received by his hospital.

Gaza's Christian community of 2,500 suffered at least three deaths in the fighting—including 14-year-old Christine Turok, who died of a heart attack from fear—and Gaza Baptist Church and the Palestinian Bible Society were damaged by Israeli airstrikes.

A broad cross-section of Christian agencies mobilized aid to Gaza and southern Israel. The Baptist World Alliance ...

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March 2009

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