‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 72: Israeli Forces Kill Palestinians in Church, UNRWA Warns of Mass Flight to Egypt


Mustafa Abu Sneineh | Mondoweiss - TRANSCEND Media Service

First responders and civilians look for survivors amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following Israeli bombardment in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 14 Dec 2023
(Photo: Bashar Taleb/APA Images)

17 Dec 2023 – Israel’s Netanyahu vows to continue war “until victory” as Western leaders call for ceasefire. In the West Bank, Israeli forces have killed nine Palestinians in the past 24 hours.


  • 18,800+ killed* and more than 51,000 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 297 Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 450 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 1,682 injured.

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on December 16. Due to breakdowns in communication networks within the Gaza Strip, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has not been able to regularly and accurately update its tolls since mid-November. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 20,000.

Key Developments

  • Israeli tanks and snipers surround Holy Family catholic church in north Gaza, fire at Palestinians, killing mother and daughter sheltering inside.
  • Israeli forces bomb YMCA in Gaza, which shelters 300 displaced people, injuring and killing several Palestinians.
  • Israeli PM Netanyahu vows to continue “war until victory, despite international pressure,” takes pride in preventing a Palestinian state.
  • Palestinian women and children make up 70 percent of causalities in Gaza Strip, thousands remain missing under rubble.
  • UNRWA director says Israel’s bombardment created a reality on the ground “which in fact will push more and more Palestinians out of Gaza.”
  • PA Ministry of Health says Israel killed 505 Palestinians in occupied West Bank and Jerusalem since January, 111 of them children.
  • PA Commission of Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs says female prisoners from Gaza detained at Damoun Prison face daily punishment, including beating and strip searches.
  • Israeli drone missiles bomb Mahmoud Samer Jaber’s house and Al-Manshiya neighborhood in Nour Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem.

Israeli forces kill two Palestinians inside Catholic church in Gaza

Israeli forces killed two Palestinians with sniper bullets on Saturday in Al-Zaytoun neighborhood and injured seven others while they were sheltering inside the Holy Family church in Gaza.

Israeli tanks surrounded the catholic parish and fired at Palestinians who moved inside its courtyard, Wafa news agency reported. Israeli fire killed Nahida Khalil Boulos Anton and her daughter, Samar Kamal Anton, inside the church’s compound, where 600 displaced people, most of them Palestinian Christians, were sheltering from the Israeli bombardment.

Israeli forces are aiming to evict Palestinians from the Holy Family parish, and on Sunday, it bombed the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Gaza, which shelters 300 displaced people, injuring and killing several Palestinians.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned the attack on the Catholic church. “Nahida and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked to the Sister’s Convent,” it said in a statement. “One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety. Seven more people were shot and wounded as they tried to protect others inside the church compound.”

“No warning was given, no notification was provided. They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents,” the statement added.

The Patriarchate said that an Israeli missile damaged the convent’s electric generator and fuel tank, where 54 disabled persons are sheltering.

The incident drew wide condemnation and was described as a “senseless attack.” On October 19, Israeli forces bombed the Greek Orthodox Church in the center of Gaza City, which housed hundreds of Palestinians, killing 18 people.

Israel’s Netanyahu proud of blocking Palestinian state

At least 19,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s aggression on the Gaza Strip began in October. Although some Western leaders are now calling for a “sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza, Israel’s war cabinet ministers appear to be adamant about continuing to batter the Gaza Strip, depicting their military campaign as the “second war of independence.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday in a televised speech that “this war we must continue until victory, despite the international pressures and despite the unbearably heavy price that the war exacts from us in the fall of our dear sons and daughters.”

Up until Sunday morning, 450 Israeli soldiers were killed, the majority of them during combat and armed clashes with Palestinian fighters, since October 7. Palestinian resistance factions are still holding 130 Israelis captive.

The Israeli army’s accidentally shooting and killing of three Israeli captives in the Gaza Strip has caused an immense embarrassment to the government and to Netanyahu, who said that he was “shocked” upon hearing the news.

“They were just a step away from freedom, they really touched redemption and that’s when the disaster happened. It broke my heart. It broke the whole nation’s heart,” he said.

Netanyahu also added, “I am very proud that I prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

His political career is at stake as his Likud Party’s popularity plummeted, and protests calling for his resignation returned to the streets of Tel Aviv.

In Gaza, women and children make up 70 percent of causalities

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Health said on Saturday evening that 18,800 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and almost 51,000 injured since October 7. Women and children make up 70 percent of the causalities, while thousands remain missing under the rubble.

The ministry added that 11 medical facilities out of a total 36 facilities were operating in the Gaza Strip. Three of those operational facilities are in northern Gaza.

Wafa reported on Sunday morning that Israeli air raids on houses in Jabalia killed at least 35 people.

Israel’s bombing of the Shihab family in Jabalia killed 24 people and injured 90 others. Another bombing of the Khalla family house in the town left 11 people dead. Palestinian rescue teams retrieved 23 bodies of martyrs buried in the rubble, following an Israeli bombing of the Al-Nazla area in Jabalia.

In Gaza’s Old City, an air strike killed 20 people, while Israeli forces remain stationed in Palestine Square in the middle of the city, close to the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital and the Great Omari Mosque, both of which were targeted throughout the war.

In Al-Zaytoun neighborhood, Israeli shelling and drone attacks killed nine members of the Al-Amarin and Hamouda families in southeast Gaza City.

Israeli forces also bombed the neighborhoods of Al-Nasr, Tel Al-Hawa, Sheikh Radwan, and Beit Lahia in northern Gaza. Palestinians buried 20 members of the Salem family in a makeshift cemetery after an Israeli F-16 bombed and flattened their four-story house in Gaza City, Wafa reported.

In Beit Lahia, it bombed the house of the Al-Barawi family, killing two people and injuring dozens.

In the south of Gaza, Israeli forces bombed and raided the towns of Khuzaa, Al-Qarara, Sheikh Nasser, and the Al-Satar Al-Gharbi area, and launched four air raids on Yebna refugee camp, near Rafah on the border with Egypt.

Israel’s warplanes also bombed Dier Al-Balah camp in central Gaza, killing 12 people and wounding dozens. In Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip, Israel’s artillery shelled the courtyard of Nasser Hospital, wounding two Palestinians on Sunday morning.

UN official: ‘The temptation to flee this hell on Earth is very strong’

Philippe Lazzarini, the director-general of the UN refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) said that there are more than one million Palestinians in Rafah, a town that was home to almost 200,000 people before October 7.

UNRWA is also seeing a “skyrocketing increase” in diarrhea and the emergence of Hepatitis liver infection.

“A lot of skin disease also, due to the appalling hygiene conditions, and many people have not been able to change their clothes for weeks,” he said.

Lazzarini warned during an interview with The New Statesman that aid agencies are racing against the clock as Israel continues to block sufficient medical and humanitarian supplies from entering Gaza.

“The more we wait the more people will die, not just because of the military bombardment but also because of the impact of the siege. That is a race against the clock,” Lazzarini said.

He added that Israel’s bombardment created a reality on the ground “which in fact will push more and more Palestinians out of Gaza.”

He explained that the Palestinian middle class “may want to give their children a future. We have already seen that people are not allowed to return to the north and are constantly pushed further south.”

“The temptation to flee this hell on Earth is very strong,” he said. “A tipping point might be reached and people will try their chances. It may not be a deliberate policy, but you have a reality on the ground being created.”

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide protested in solidarity with Palestine’s Gaza Strip and to call for a ceasefire. In the US cities of Chicago, New York, Los Angelos and Huston, among others, protestors called the US administration to stop arming Israel and push for an immediate halt to Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

Israeli forces kill nine Palestinians in 24 hours in West Bank

The PA’s Ministry of Health announced on Sunday that 505 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem since January, 111 of them are children.

However, since October 7, the Israeli occupation has killed 297 Palestinians, 70 of whom are children.

Until Sunday morning, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians and injured dozens in Nablus, Tulkarem, and Hebron.

Israeli forces launched a heavy military raid of the town of Tulkarem and Nour Shams refugee camp, killing five Palestinians, identified as Jihad Hatem Amarneh, 23, Walid Abdel Razzaq Asaad Zahra, 22, Asaad Fathi Asaad Zahra, 33, Mahmoud Samer Jaber, 22, and Ghaith Yasser Shehadeh, 25.

Wafa reported that Israeli forces bombed Nour Shams camp in the early hours of Sunday and turned the area into a military zone, blocking ambulances from entering the camp.

Israeli drone missiles bombed the house of Mahmoud Samer Jaber and the Al-Manshiya neighborhood in Nour Shams camp. Israeli forces also raided several houses and detained tens of people while stationing snipers at houses roofs belonging to Al-Batta and Al-Saida families in the camp.

On Saturday evening, Israeli forces killed Aziz Abd al-Rahim Aziz Ekhailil, 20, with bullets in the abdomen in the town of Beit Ummar, south of the occupied West Bank.

In Deir Ammar refugee camp, west of Ramallah, Israeli forces killed the 16-year-old Atallah Ziad Badha with live bullets when clashes broke out on Saturday evening.

Three Palestinians were injured in the abdomen, chest, and foot, when Israeli forces raided the camp, Wafa reported. Israeli forces also arrested tens of Palestinians overnight from the towns of Nablus, Al-Aroub refugee camp in Hebron, and Al-Jalazoun camp in Ramallah.

The PA’s Commission of Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs said on Sunday that female prisoners from the Gaza Strip detained at Damoun Prison are facing harsh repression, including beatings and strip searches, on a daily basis.

The Commission recorded the case of an 80-year-old woman from Gaza who was detained by Israeli forces.

“[She] was walking on a crutch and without a cover on her head. Her body and clothes were full of blood and she did not know anything. It seemed that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,” her lawyer told The Commission.

“All female prisoners from Gaza Strip arrived at the prison in a deplorable condition, in all respects, health, physical and psychological,” The Commission report added.


Mustafa Abu Sneineh is a journalist, poet and writer from the city of Al-Quds in Occupied Palestine. His first poetry book A Black Cloud at the End of the Line was published in Arabic in 2016. He writes for both English and Arabic publications.

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