Former US Republican congressman Justin Amash on Friday shared that he lost “several” family relatives in Gaza, after a reported Israeli strike hit the grounds of an ancient church.
“With great sadness, I have now confirmed that several of my relatives (including Viola and Yara pictured here) were killed at Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza, where they had been sheltering, when part of the complex was destroyed as the result of an Israeli air strike,” he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
A Israeli strike hit the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church complex, one of the oldest churches in the world, and killed at least 16 people on Friday.
Witnesses told The National that at least 450 people were sheltering in the church.
Mr Amash shared that he “was really worried about” the safety of his family in Gaza.
He wrote another post on Saturday thanking people for their condolences.
"My family and I would like to express our heartfelt appreciation for the many kind and gracious messages of condolence for our beloved cousins in Gaza," he said.
"Please remember the thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians, in unbearable circumstances, who simply want a life of peace. So many of the people suffering are just children. They don’t deserve violence and death."
Mr Amash is the son of two immigrants – a Palestinian-Christian father and Syrian-Christian mother – who both went to the US as Palestinian refugees.
He served as a Republican representative in Michigan from 2011 to 2021, becoming one of the few Palestinian-American members to serve in Congress. He has since become a Libertarian politician.
“The Palestinian Christian community has endured so much. Our family is hurting badly,” he wrote in his post on Friday.
“May God watch over all Christians in Gaza – and all Israelis and Palestinians who are suffering, whatever their religion or creed.”
The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem issued a statement condemning the deadly strike on the church.
“Targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli air strikes on residential areas over the past 13 days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored,” it said.