Gaza Bishop: Hamas Used Church to Fire Rockets

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GAZA STRIP -- Air raid sirens sounding in the Eshkol Region on Wednesday afternoon turned out to be a false alarm. The 72-hour ceasefire appears to be holding for now.

Hamas is not only using mosques to launch attacks against Israelis. It has also used a church compound.

Archbishop Alexios is Gaza's most prominent Christian leader. His decision to open his church to 2,000 Muslims escaping the war surprised many of Gaza's residents.

"Christ tells us we must love each other, our neighbors, and our enemies," Bishop Alexios told CBN News. "No other religion says that except the Christian faith."

Alexios and the estimated 1,500 Arab Christians who live in the Gaza Strip walk a fine line between trying to stay alive and the Bible's command to share God's love. Since Hamas' 2007 takeover of Gaza, residents say it's imposed strict Taliban-style Islamic laws on the people.

"Islam is the rule of this place and whatever Hamas says we must obey or face consequences," Alexios explained.

Now he's now concerned about what comes next after the guns fall silent and missiles and rockets stop flying.

"There's a lot of anger on the street. We need forgiveness and love to flow," he said.

Alexios took CBN News to the roof terrace outside his office to show how Islamists used the church compound to launch rockets into Israel. He refused to discuss details on camera for security reasons, but days after the war started, Israeli missiles targeted an area close to the church sanctuary.

Little is left of one of two minarets that used to stand tall here, not too far from the Mediterranean. It was a major mosque in the area and was reportedly hit by seven Israeli missiles.

The Israeli government said places like mosques and hospitals in densely populated areas are routinely used by Hamas to fire off their rockets.

Just around the corner from the church, Mohammed, a resident of Gaza, sat in complete shock.

"I picked up the phone and the Israeli army said I have five minutes to get out of my house -- they were going to destroy it. I had 60 people living in my apartment and had to get them out," he recalled.

Mohammed's three-story apartment complex was destroyed. He and his five brothers and their families lived in the building. The word on the street is the brothers are tied to Hamas and used the apartment to store weapons, a claim Mohammed denies.

Asked why Hamas is interested, he said, "The Israelis attack schools, they attack hospitals, they attacked mosques. You ask them. They know why. I don't know why."

This week, Israel's military released a map of Gaza showing dozens of positions from which Hamas rockets were fired. Dramatic footage from drones flying above the Strip also shows Hamas firing from populated areas.

Back at the church, Bishop Alexios said he's not out to pick a fight with Hamas or Israel. He simply wants to serve people.

"We are disciples of Jesus [and] we must give love to everyone without condition," he said.

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