The rood cross of the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church (L), the oldest church still in use in Gaza, is pictured next to the minaret of a mosque, the day after the church was damaged in an Israeli strike in Gaza City on October 20, 2023. AFP
The church has been a shelter for hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from Israel's deadly war on Gaza.
The Israeli strike left a "large number of martyrs and injured" at the compound of the Greek Orthodox Saint Porphyrius Church in Gaza City, the ministry said. Palestinian news agency WAFA said a Palestinian girl was among those killed in the strike.
More casualties are feared trapped under the rubble, as rescue and medical teams were seen working tirelessly to reach them, a WAFA correspondent reported at the church site.
Witnesses told AFP the strike appeared to have been aimed at a target close to the place of worship where many Gaza residents had taken refuge as the war raged in the Palestinian territory.
Witnesses said the strike damaged the facade of the church and caused an adjacent building to collapse, adding that many injured people were evacuated to hospital.
Saint Porphyrius is the oldest church still in use in Gaza and is located in the city's historic neighbourhood.
A war crime
The Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed its "strongest condemnation" of the strike at its church compound.
"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 13 days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored," the Patriarchate said in a statement.
The church is not far from the Baptist hospital, which was hit by a brazen Israeli airstrike on Tuesday, killing at least 600 civilians and injuring hundreds more.
Gaza has been hit by a relentless barrage of Israeli airstrikes, which has killed at least 3,785 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, most of them civilians, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
The near-constant bombardments came in a grisly retaliation for a Hamas militant attack on October 7, which Israel says killed at least 1,400 people, most of them civilians.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online