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 CNS Story:

GAZA-DEATH Jan-7-2009 (340 words) xxxi

Gaza priest: Death of young parishioner is loss to whole community

By Judith Sudilovsky
Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The death of a 21-year-old member of Holy Family Parish in Gaza is a loss to the entire Gazan community, said the parish pastor.

"His mother is weeping like a slave," said Msgr. Manuel Musallam, noting that the youth's parents, Manerza and Salameh Sabbah, are dedicated members of the parish.

The Sabbahs had been staying with extended family after their home was bombed in an Israeli attack Jan. 6. Early Jan. 7, Naseem Sabbah went to check on his housewares and dry-goods store, Msgr. Musallam said. The young man was standing outside the store when an Israeli shell landed nearby and killed him, said the priest.

"Naseem's death not only affects the people of the parish but all of his friends. He was living in a Muslim environment and he had many friends. They will miss him and we will miss him," he told Catholic News Service in a phone interview.

"He is one of many (Gazans) who have been killed," the priest said.

Nearly 700 Palestinians, including 300 civilians, have been killed since Israel began its attacks on Gaza Dec. 27 to root out the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Naseem Sabbah was the third of four sons.

"He was a beautiful person, very well-educated," said one parishioner. "Gaza is no longer just a prison; it is now one big cemetery. Who will be left?"

Israel charges Hamas with using civilians as shields for their gunmen, but Msgr. Musallam said the Palestinian men are "taking their places with their families."

The priest also said there was shooting all around the church.

He said people have been asking to take refuge in the church but he has not yet opened the doors and will do so when there is a need. As of Jan. 7, church officials were helping people cook their meals at the parish house, which has a generator for electricity, and giving them water from the parish pump, he said.


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