GAZA — Khaled Ghazal looks at a pile of scattered old stones from the Great Omari Mosque as his eyes fill with tears. The mosque, Gaza’s largest and oldest, was largely destroyed in an Israeli airstrike last month in the Hamas-Israel war that began Oct. 7.
Hundreds of heritage sites have been destroyed or damaged since Israel launched its air, sea and ground campaign on the Gaza Strip. The offensive came in retaliation for Hamas’ cross-border assault Oct. 7 in which around 1,200 people were killed and another 240 taken hostage by the movement’s militants. Since then, more than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to local officials.
Israel says it is fighting Hamas, which operates in densely populated areas. Speaking to the Washington-based National Public Radio network, an Israeli official admitted that the Great Omari Mosque was hit by an Israeli strike last month, saying a tunnel network was used by Hamas fighters underneath the mosque.