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Source: NewsWeek

Oct 21, 2023

Iran Compares Israel to ISIS After Gaza Christians Killed in Church Blast

By Thomas Kika

The Iranian foreign minister on Saturday likened Israel to ISIS after a historic church in Gaza City was damaged in an Israeli strike, resulting in numerous casualties.

On October 7, Hamas led the deadliest Palestinian militant attack on Israel in history, with Israel subsequently launching its heaviest-ever airstrikes on Gaza in response. As of Saturday, over 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, the Associated Press reported. While more than 4,000 Palestinians in Gaza have died, the AP said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his country is "at war" and has cut off food, fuel, electricity, and medicine supplies into Gaza. Israel has called up 360,000 army reservists as it prepares for a likely ground offensive into the territory, which has an estimated population of around 2.3 million.

On Thursday night, an explosion rocked the St. Porphyrios Greek Orthodox Church in Gaza City, the oldest church in the region, which had been providing shelter for hundreds of Palestinians at the time. Both the Palestinian authorities and the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem blamed the incident on the Israeli military, with the latter issuing a statement strongly condemning it as "a war crime that cannot be ignored."

In a report, Reuters quoted Gaza authorities, who claimed that 18 Palestinian Christians had been killed in the church blast, though Newsweek could not independently confirm these numbers.

On Saturday, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian likened Israel to ISIS, the Islamist militant group that the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization, in a post to X, the platform previously known as Twitter. The post was reported on by Tasnim, an Iranian news agency run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the country's military.

"The savagery of this pariah regime and its acts of aggression and desecration of divine religions as well as its onslaught against the historical and cultural heritage of humanity are all similar to (the ways of) uncivilized terror groups and Daesh [another title for ISIS]," he wrote.

Newsweek reached out to Israeli officials via email for comment.

In response to an inquiry from Newsweek, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that a strike it launched had caused the damage to the church, but also claimed "unequivocally...that the Church was not the target of the strike" and stressed that the incident was under review.

"Last night, IDF fighter jets targeted the command and control center belonging to a Hamas terrorist, involved in the launching of rockets and mortars toward Israel," the unit said. "The command and control center was used to carry out attacks against Israel, and contained infrastructure belonging to the Hamas terrorist organization. As a result of the IDF strike, a wall of a church in the area of the center was damaged. We are aware of reports of casualties. The incident is under review."

Thomas Kika is a Newsweek weekend reporter based in upstate New York. His focus is reporting on crime and national politics. In the past, he has also focused on things like business, technology, and popular culture. Thomas joined Newsweek in 2021 and previously worked at the International Business Times. He is a graduate of the University at Albany. You can get in touch with Thomas by emailing Languages: English.

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