JERUSALEM -- I have not been able to reach Father Jorge Hernandez, the Argentine priest of Gaza’s Holy Family Parish, for some days now. In the morning yesterday I spoke with one of the Sisters of Mercy who have moved in with the priest together with the severally disabled children they look after. She told me they were fine, caring for the children and since it is the sisters’ policy not to give interviews to the press, she suggested I try to call Father Hernandez in the afternoon for more details about their situation.
Father Jorge Hernandez, a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, celebrates Mass at the Gaza parish in 2011. (CNS/Paul Jeffrey)
But when my call went through to his cell phone today -- a phone call into the heart of war -- I could hear the deep pain and weariness in his voice, something I had not heard in our previous conversations at the start of the fighting.
This afternoon, following the worst of the fighting in Gaza, Father Hernandez was apologetic to me. He could not answer my call, he said. There had been bombings near the parish church, he said, and he needed to attend to the people.
Hopes for a calm Eid al-Fitr holiday July 28 were shattered in the afternoon by heavy Israeli shelling that left 30 people dead, including 10 people -- eight of whom were children from the Abu Shafaka and al-Mukdad families -- in a park in the Al-Shati refugee camp and others at the Shifa Hospital.
The Israel Defense Forces denied responsibility for the attacks on the park and hospital, blaming them on misfired missiles from the Islamic Jihad, a claim Palestinians deny.
That same evening a number of armed Palestinians infiltrated into Israel through one of the tunnels the IDF says has been the target of their mission to destroy and a firefight ensued, killing one of the gunmen and wounding several of the soldiers. Israeli residents of the nearby communities were told to remain home and roads closed as soldiers searched the area to make sure no armed gunman remained in Israeli territory. A barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas into Israel reached all the way up the coast to the northern city of Haifa.