GAZA CITY - Relief agencies are struggling to help nearly one-half million people in Gaza who have been displaced by the month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas-led fighters. Some have taken refuge in a Christian church in Gaza City.
The Archdiocese of Gaza’s Greek Orthodox Church has become a place of refuge for 800 Muslims who fled their homes during the Israeli-Hamas conflict.
Hayat al-Bahtety left her house in al-Shejayia with 23 family members during the first week of fighting.
“The rockets were coming down like heavy rain. We ran out into the street. We did not know where to go. We were just running," said al-Bahtety.
Mohammed Khalaf has been here with 30 family members for three weeks.
“We went to U.N. schools. We found all the schools were full. Then we came to the church, and the father of the church welcomed us and opened the church for us," said Khalaf.
Heads of families registered for aid they know they will need for weeks to come. In addition to those living here, the church is helping 1,600 others living on the streets outside.
They go to the mosque next door only to pray. They fear that it could be bombed like dozens of others. Staying in the church does not bother Khalaf.
“The Christiajn, the Muslim are almost one religion. We are one people. There is no difference," he said.
Most Gazans feel the same way, says Rania al-Helo, whose Anera group is providing assistance to these people.
“This brotherhood, this strong bond between Muslims and the Christians has been [there] throughout the years and throughout the history of Gaza," said al-Helo.
This solidarity will be needed in coming months as all Gazans try to recover from the devastation of war.