Hamas says Gaza's oldest mosque damaged in Israeli strikes

It is estimated that 104 mosques have been destroyed since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza on October 7

The Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City's old quarter, which was built in the seventh century, is shown before Israel's attack. AFP
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Gaza’s oldest and biggest mosque, dating back to the seventh century has been reportedly reduced to rubble by Israeli strikes.

Photographs carried by Hamas-run media, which could not be independently verified, showed much of the Great Omari Mosque destroyed, with fallen walls and roofs and a huge crack at the bottom of the minaret, Reuters reported.

The mosque in Gaza city's Old Town was named after Omar bin Al Khattab, Islam's second caliph, and built on the site of a Byzantine church.

Hamas officials accused Israel of committing a “heinous, barbaric crime” by striking the mosque. The Israeli military has not commented on the claim.

Several of Gaza's ancient churches including the Church of Saint Porphyrius have been damaged in Israeli bombardment over the past two months.

“The crime of targeting and destroying archaeological sites should spur the world and Unesco into action to preserve this great civilisational and cultural heritage,” Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said, according to media reports.

Gaza residents voiced grief and outrage after Hamas said Israel had bombed the cherished landmark.

Ahmed Nemer, 45, a tailor who lived on a street next to Omari Mosque, said he was speechless after seeing the photographs of the damaged building. He is currently in the south Gaza, where he fled to seek shelter from the bombardment.

“I prayed there and played around it all through my childhood,” he said of the mosque, accusing Israel of “trying to wipe out our memories”.

Mohammad Rajab, a taxi driver from Gaza city who has also fled to the south from his home a few hundred metres from the mosque, spoke of it as the city's most important local landmark.

“This is barbaric,” he said.

The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said it is estimated that 104 mosques have been destroyed since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza on October 7.

Updated: December 09, 2023, 1:33 PM