From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3279 St Philip's Church and Ahli Arab Hospital sustains

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Sun, 26 Jan 2003 00:50:10 -0000

ACNS 3279     |     MIDDLE EAST      |	   26 JANUARY 2003

St Philip's Church and Ahli Arab Hospital sustains direct hit by guided


[Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem] There is broken glass everywhere; on the
floors, covering the tables, covering papers, on beds. The Christian leaders
of Gaza have gathered to offer their support and condemn the bombing of St.
Philip's Episcopal Church, located within the Ahli Arab Hospital compound.
The Church is in the centre of the hospital complex, and surrounded by
buildings flying the Red Cross and Anglican flags. All day a steady flow of
friends and visitors came to say 'Illhamdillah Salameh', 'thank God you are

At about 2:15am last night, Dr. Salah, Ahli Arab Hospital's physician on
call, awoke to the sound of an explosion in the distance. The next explosion
was nearer and louder, and the electricity failed. Within the next few
minutes he saw the distinctive light of a missile approaching. As he lay in
his third floor bed, he watched as the missile passed within 10 meters of
his head and hit St. Philip's Church. It came slowly, and he describes 'the
storm of wind and glass passing like a train through his bedroom'. There was
glass everywhere; in his bed, in his hair, covering the floor.

An elderly woman had arrived at the emergency room, just prior to the
attack. She came because she was terrified, and was suffering from high
blood pressure. The doctor began to examine her and just then the missile
hit next door, and throwing him to the ground. It took a few minutes for the
electrical generator to come on, and by the time he was able to get to her,
she had died. 'She died of fear.'

Built at the turn of the last century, St. Philip's Episcopal Church was
reconsecrated in 1996, by Bishops Samir Kafity and Riah Abu El-Assal, in the
presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey; The Presiding
Bishop of the US, Edmund Browning, and thirty-four other Primates of the
Anglican Communion, along with President Arafat. It's century old stained
class windows were shattered, and crystal from it's chandeliers littered the
floor. The missile entered through the roof, and left a meter wide hole in
the floor. The alter was covered with plaster and a nearby hymnal pierced
with shrapnel. Suhaila Tarazi, Ahli director, said 'we collected money from
so many individuals who supported the renovation of the Church, and in a
minute it is gone.' The building was structurally reinforced with the
remodelling, but it is an old building, and the walls showed numerous deep

The destruction did not stop with the Church. The Paediatric Clinics were
damaged as well, with the collapse of the false ceiling and ventilation
system. Throughout the hospital; the physical therapy building, the staff
accommodations, the laboratory, medical records, the morgue, the library 
glass littered the floors, windows were broken, doors separated from their
frames by the force of the blast. The damage to the hospital is extensive,
and many more old buildings showed structural cracks. Boys from the
neighbourhood collected shrapnel.

Everyone at the Hospital today spoke about why this happened. No one could
imagine it was an accident. The area surrounding the Church was covered with
the wire filaments that come from guided missiles. Hospital employees
pointed out that they are nowhere near other apartment buildings, government
or military facilities. Consensus was that this was a precisely targeted
attack, how could it be otherwise? Apache helicopters had not only fired the
missile, they had returned to film the results of their attack. These were
shown on early morning Israeli television.

Dr Salah continued, 'Ahli Arab Hospital is like a small family, we all feel
connected. I have been through so many attacks, but never imagined our
hospital would be hit, or the Church. It is a holy place. We are strong, we
will survive. The hospital is running and it is going to continue to run for
a long time.'

Dr Nabila, an internist, is Ahli's only female physician. Last night tanks
surrounded her family's four story apartment building. They were given five
minutes to evacuate, leaving with only the nightclothes they wore. The
entire neighbourhood was evacuated. Those who specialize in destruction then
entered to plant vacuum bombs, which destroyed the building with such force
that cement blocks are scattered over a kilometre. Today the streets are
filled with neighbours and friends who are staring at the destruction, while
children gather to look.

Suhaila Tarazi moved through the different buildings of the hospital,
shaking hands, accepting words of support from the steady stream of
visitors, staff and neighbours. 'God forgive them they do not know what they
are doing. I will repeat the words of Jesus on the day he was crucified.
Despite this we will continue our mission of love and peace to all people. I
call upon our friends, all over the world, to keep us in your prayers and
help us to overcome this tragedy. To work hard with us, because I am sure
that one day peace will prevail.'

For further information, please contact:
Nancy Dinsmore
Development Office
Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem


photographs to accompany this article are available from As with all Anglican Communion News
Service items, this article may be reproduced provided it is accompanied by
a credit for Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem/ACNS.

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