ICC Note: As the conflict between the Palestinian territories and Israel continues, the violence claims its first known Christian casualty. Jalila Ayyad, a Christian woman, was killed in her house after a shelling from Israel collapsed her house. Arab Christians in the region are continuously caught between the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Numbers have dwindled to around 1500 Christians, with nearly 1.7 million Muslims making up the majority of the population in Gaza. Arab Christians have lived in Palestine for centuries. This latest wave of conflict has claimed many lives on both sides, and is only driving the region further apart.
07/28/14 Israel (Your Middle East News) – Jalila Ayyad’s widower George still had a black eye and bloodstains on his shirt as he processed ahead of her coffin, hours after the air strike that destroyed their home.
Jalila, 60, was the first Christian casualty of a bloody Gaza war.
She is also survived by two sons, but one could not be at her funeral because he is in hospital with serious wounds suffered in Sunday afternoon’s Israeli strike.
The simple coffin — white with a black cross — was carried reverently down the marble stairs of the cemetery, and into the chapel of the Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in Gaza City.
“She died under the rubble,” said Jalila’s nephew, Fuad Ayyad.
“Both her legs were crushed after the house collapsed with her, her husband and son inside.”
An Orthodox priest in a black gown read passages from the Bible and swung an incense receptacle, as the coffin was set down beneath an ornate ceiling of gold leaf images of saints, their names written in Arabic and Greek.
An icon of the Virgin Mary was placed upon Jalila’s coffin, and some two dozen relatives sang “Hallelujah” as the afternoon call to prayer rose from the minaret of the adjacent mosque.
Her funeral was a sombre and respectful affair, but momentarily took on a political dimension when one member of the parish picked up a microphone and railed against Israel’s bombardment of the small Palestinian coastal territory.
“This Palestinian Arab Christian woman died in shelling by the Israeli occupation,” the speaker shouted angrily.
“There are massacres here every day. This is what happens to the Palestinian people. Where’s the world, where’s the international community in all this?”
“The bombs hit and kill — they don’t discriminate between civilian or militant,” he said.
A relative, George Ayyad, agreed wholeheartedly. He dismissed the idea that Jalila’s death would force more of the already dwindling Christian population out of Gaza.