Historic Omari Mosque in Gaza Severely Damaged in Israeli Airstrike: Calls for Action to Safeguard Cultural Heritage

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The historic Omari Mosque in Gaza has been severely damaged in an airstrike carried out by Israeli forces, according to claims made by Hamas, a Palestinian militant organization, on Friday.

Images being shared on social media and identified by Chris Wick News reporters in Gaza as being of the Omari Mosque showed massive damage to the building, with only its ancient stone minaret standing. The Great Omari Mosque is considered one of the most important and oldest mosques in Palestine and the first one to be constructed in the enclave.

According to Reuters, Hamas responded to the event by denouncing it as a “brutal and savage act” and requested that UNESCO take action to safeguard the historical structures in Gaza.

It would not be the first time civilian infrastructure, including cultural and heritage sites, has been targeted by Israeli Defense Forces as they carry out retaliatory strikes.

The fighting began on October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, killing about 1,200 people. Israel has repeatedly accused Hamas of using civilian infrastructure, including mosques and schools, to hide its fighters.

Another place of worship, the Othman bin Qashqar Mosque in Gaza City, was hit by air raids on Thursday, Hamas said. The group also condemned the destruction of the Hammam al-Samara, a 1,000-year old Turkish-style bath in the territory.

The Palestinian Ministry of Culture reported that Israeli aircraft have attacked eight museums in Gaza since the start of the conflict, including the Rafah Museum, Al-Qarara Museum, and the Khan Yunis Museum. Additionally, many historic buildings in Gaza’s Old City have been severely damaged or destroyed.

Israel has also reduced nine publishing houses and libraries to rubble and destroyed or partially damaged at least 21 cultural centers. In its latest report, the NGO Heritage for Peace found that 104 out of 195 architectural heritage sites in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. More than 17,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the conflict, according to Gaza Health Ministry figures, and much civilian infrastructure has been destroyed.

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