Update: Wed, Jan. 7, noon, Chicago time.
Christianity Today news staff has received reliable reports that three Gazan Christians have been killed inside Gaza since Israel began a new military offensive starting Dec. 27.
Sources report the three Christians are:
Christine Turok, 14. Click here for a full account of her death.
Jiryis Al-Amash, approx. 40 years. Further details unavailable at this time.
Naseem Saba, age unknown. Saba is the first Christian reportedly killed directly due to Israeli military action. His famly recovered his body at Shifa hospital in Gaza City, according to a Wednesday morning report.
Meanwhile, Christian leaders worldwide have been monitoring the situation inside Gaza, especially the Gaza Baptist church building, a six-story structure. According to a report from Open Doors:
"Everybody suffers, but I feel especially bad for the children who are going through a very tough time," is what one Christian church leader shares with Open Doors about the chaotic situation in Gaza.
He says: "The children wake up several times in the middle of the night; crying or even screaming from fear and memories that come back to their minds. Right in front of our home you can see the repair work done to the street where a rocket came down in a previous clash. Many children are traumatized because of previous situations in Gaza. They have seen bodies lying on the streets that used to be their playground. Now it is all happening again."
The church leader adds: "The sound of bombings is terrifying. I sometimes call it ?the big voice' because it is ongoing. You always hear it and you never know what building will be hit next."
In an Email Suhad Massad, wife of pastor Hanna Massad and leader of the Palestinian Bible Society's ministry in Gaza, wrote: "The church building (Gaza Baptist) was damaged when the police station opposite of the church was bombed. In the attack 40 people were killed instantly, but to the church only damage was done. The windows of the library fell down, but no members of the church were hurt."
The lower floors of the six-story church building were damaged by the blast. The church leader adds: "Fortunately, no member of the church was hurt because everybody stays at home. Hardly anyone has the courage to leave their houses; they dare not to go anywhere."
An estimated 2,500 Christians remain in Gaza. Last month many families tried to leave Gaza to visit family or friends in the West Bank to celebrate Christmas and find a safe place, but according to Suhad Massad: "Only permits were given to the elderly. Many people ages 18 to 35 were not allowed to leave Gaza. So several families are separated now, which is very difficult for them. Pauline Ayyad (widow of Rami Ayyad, manager of the Bible store in Gaza who was killed October 7, 2007) and her children were able to leave Gaza December 27, and are in the West Bank at the moment."
The church leader notes: "Those in Gaza sometimes have no idea what is going on. Very often the power is down so they have no radio, television or Internet. People call their friends and family outside Gaza to stay updated about the situation in their own city."
Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller says: "Open Doors is calling on Christians in the West to pray for Christians in Gaza in the wake of the bombings and ground surge. Pray that the war between Israel and Palestine is shorter and less devastating than what military and political speculators around the world are predicting. Pray that Christian families will be reunited. Pray that the Gaza Baptist Church building will be spared more damage from the assault. Pray for all the victims of the violence in Gaza and Israel."
Staff from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews are in southern Israel. Their last report was from Sunday, Jan. 4. They shared:
After leaving Jerusalem, we decide to head to Sderot after hearing that there has already been a Code Red warning this morning. When we reach the city we are met by Tal Mahai, head of Sderot Mayor David Buskila's office. Tal tells us that a rocket from Gaza has directly hit a home in the city that we will visit. As we travel to the house, Tal tells us that the people of Sderot are not running away. The municipality is doing everything it can so that the city can continue to function normally during abnormal times.
Click here for the full account.