'Please make this stop': UK MP pleads with Israeli military to spare relatives in Gaza

Layla Moran has several relatives sheltering in a church where two women were allegedly killed by the Israeli military over the weekend

Found children are seen leaving The Holy Family Church in Gaza City on December 20,2018.Christmas time compounds a years worth of hopes and fears. Father Yousef Assad, 44, who works in Gaza CityÕs Roman Catholic Church, said he was simply praying that next year wouldnÕt get worse. He looks to the past Ñ when Churches once thrived across Gaza, and the coastal enclave was at the center of trade between Africa and Asia Ñ for inspiration (Photo by Heidi Levine for The National).
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

MP Layla Moran has pleaded with the Israeli military to spare the lives of people in a church in Gaza after an attack killed a mother and daughter who had sought shelter there.

Liberal Democrat MP Ms Moran, who has several relatives who have sought shelter there, said the mother and daughter were trying to get to the toilet when they were shot. She also hit out at Israeli denials of the incident.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales condemned the “seemingly deliberate and callous killing” of the two Christian women at the weekend in the Holy Family Church.

Lord Ahmad has said he was “shocked” by the reports of the attack on the church.

Writing on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, the Minister of State for the Mena region, South Asia, Commonwealth and the UN said: “A further tragedy in Gaza. Israel must abide by [international humanitarian law].

Ms Moran told LBC on Monday: “Those are only civilians in this church. And the reason we know is Christians are a minority group in Gaza. It’s tiny. They all know each other.

“And they have been saying unless you are Christian and we know you, you’re not allowed into the church compound. It’s not like any random is there. They know exactly who is there.”

She said there are “more snipers now that are pointing their guns towards the church in the building opposite”.

“They are, of course, terrified. We are getting snatched conversations with them. But because there is no electricity now, it’s 30 seconds, 'are you still alive' conversations,” she said.

“We just don’t understand what the [Israeli military] is doing. Yesterday they called the father and said we are going to give you two hours when we are not shooting at you, which allowed them to be able to go from room to room to check who has got water. They are down to almost nothing.”

Ms Moran tweeted to say that was two hours “where civilians in a church could use the toilets without being killed. Please make this stop. Please”.

She told LBC she is not sure if her relatives will survive the week.

“This is advent. They are Christians, in a church seeking sanctuary. It’s very relatable what they are trying to do.”

“Our plea to the Israeli government is to just leave them alone. They haven’t hurt anybody. They have nothing to do with Hamas, nothing at all,” she said.

Israeli government representative Eylon Levy, later told LBC it was a “rather strange incident.”

He said church officials did not mention “any reports of a hit on the church, civilians being ill, injured or killed and the Israeli military's “operational findings support this.”

Ms Moran tweeted in response to say the letter they received from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem was about a different incident in the area of Rimal.

“The Church is in Zeitoun. In fact, the same statement says they’re still investigating the church. He’s muddling the two incidents and needs challenging,” she tweeted.

The UK’s first member of parliament of Palestinian descent recently addressed a rally in London to reveal how she had lost a family member in Gaza.

The MP for Oxford, whose mother’s family stretches between Gaza and the West Bank, spoke only 30 minutes after hearing of a relative’s death. She described how her family had been sheltering in the church after their house was destroyed and had remained there since the war began.

The continuing siege had contributed to her elderly relative’s ailing health, she said.

“He died because he could not be transferred to a hospital,” she said, at a vigil for Israelis and Palestinians outside Downing Street.

Speaking on Sunday to BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour, Ms Moran has warned that her family sheltering in the church have no electricity, no water or food and described them as "basically besieged".

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales condemned the “seemingly deliberate and callous killing” of the two women.

Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols said he was “heart-broken” at the news.

“The information provided by the cardinal gives a picture of seemingly deliberate and callous killing by soldiers of innocent civilians – an elderly woman and her daughter in the grounds of a church. This killing has to stop. It can never be justified.

“I ask all people of faith and goodwill to continue to pray for an end to this conflict by all sides.”

The statement from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, whose territory covers Cyprus, Jordan, Israel and Palestine, said the women were killed in “cold blood”.

“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.”

Pope Francis also on Sunday addressed the deaths at the Holy Family Parish, lamenting that “unarmed civilians are targets for bombs and gunfire” in Gaza and invoking scripture on war.

“I continue receiving very serious and sad news about Gaza. Unarmed civilians are targets for bombs and gunfire. And this has happened even within the parish complex of the Holy Family, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities, sisters,” he said during his weekly Angelus prayer.

“Some are saying, ‘This is terrorism and war.’ Yes, it is war, it is terrorism. That is why Scripture says that ‘God puts an end to war … the bow he breaks and the spear he snaps’. Let us pray to the Lord for peace.”

Updated: December 18, 2023, 11:13 AM