At least 16 people were killed in an Israeli airstrike yesterday, October 19, that hit a part of Gaza’s Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Porphyrius, one of the oldest churches in the world. The Israeli military has taken responsibility for the hit, the Wall Street Journal and others reported.

Hundreds of Palestinians were sheltering in the church, according to local authorities. The bombing was part of a larger airstrike that destroyed a district in Gaza City where residents were reportedly given only 30 minutes to evacuate. Videos circulating online show Palestinians searching through rubble.

Since the October 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,400 Israelis and resulted in the capture of around 200 hostages, according to Israeli officials, more than 1 million Gaza residents have been forced to flee their homes and 4,200 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 1,524 children, according to the United Nations and Palestinian sources. The entire region’s 2.3 million residents, approximately half of whom are people under the age of 18, are under total siege without access to clean water or electricity.

Worshippers take part in a service at the Greek Orthodox Church on August 22, 2011 in Gaza City, Gaza. (photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The Saint Porphyrius Church is one the world’s oldest standing churches and the oldest still in use in Gaza. Its original structure was built in the fifth century and its current building was constructed in the 1100s.

“The Patriarchate emphasizes that 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 airstrikes on residential areas over the past thirteen days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored,” the Patriarchate of Jerusalem wrote in its announcement of the bombing.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.