(The Hill) — Former Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), the first Palestinian-American to serve in Congress, posted online that his family members were killed in Gaza amid the ongoing airstrikes between Israel and militant group Hamas.
“With great sadness, I have now confirmed that several of my relatives (including Viola and Yara pictured here) were killed at Saint Porphyrius Orthodox Church in Gaza, where they had been sheltering, when part of the complex was destroyed as the result of an Israeli airstrike,” Amash posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
The explosion struck the Greek Orthodox church that was housing hundreds of displaced Palestinians late Thursday, resulting in a wall toppling down. Aby Selmia, the Shifa Hospital director general, initially said dozens were hurt at the church but could not give a precise death toll because bodies were buried under the rubble, the Associated Press reported.
Palestinian authorities blamed the blast on an Israeli airstrike, which has not been able to be independently verified.
The Holy Orthodox Order of Saint George confirmed the bombing of the church.
“The bombs hit the two church halls where the refugees, including children and babies, were sleeping,” the order said in a statement. “Our source at the scene says that they estimate that 150-200 people are dead, and that number is expected to rise as more people are found in the wreckage.”
According to Al Jazeera, the church has traditionally served “as a sanctuary for both Christians and Muslims during Israel’s periodic wars against Gaza.”
Several members of Congress responded to Amash online, sharing their condolences for his loss.
“Justin, I am so incredibly sorry,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on X. “This is devastating.”
The former lawmaker expressed that his family is hurting, and he wished comfort on others in the same situation.
“Give rest, O Lord, to their souls, and may their memories be eternal,” he wrote, adding, “May God watch over all Christians in Gaza–and all Israelis and Palestinians who are suffering, whatever their religion or creed.”
Amash represented Michigan’s third congressional district until 2021.