The Omari mosque, named after Islam’s second caliph Omar, is the oldest and biggest in the Palestinian enclave. Image Credit: Social media

CAIRO: Gaza residents have voiced grief and outrage after Hamas said Israel had bombed the enclave’s medieval Omari Mosque, causing widespread damage to a cherished landmark.

Photographs showed fallen walls and roofs and a huge crack at the bottom of the stone minaret. The mosque, opened in the 7th Century, is located in Gaza City’s Old Town.

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Ahmad Nemer, 45, a tailor who lived on the street next to the Omari Mosque, said he was speechless after seeing the photographs of the damaged building from south Gaza, where he fled to seek shelter from the bombardment.

“I have been praying there and playing around it all through my childhood,” he said, accusing Israel of “trying to wipe out our memories”.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military to a Reuters question about damage to the mosque.

Mohammad Rajab, a taxi driver from Gaza City who has also fled to the south from his home a few hundred metres (yards) from the mosque, spoke of it as the city’s most important local landmark.

“This is barbaric,” he said.

The Omari mosque, named after Islam’s second caliph Omar, is the oldest and biggest in the Palestinian enclave, which has been under Israeli bombardment since an October 7 Hamas attack that Israel says killed 1,200 people.

Israel’s assault has killed more than 17,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run territory, and has laid waste to entire city districts including much civilian infrastructure.

Gaza’s Hamas-run antiquities ministry has accused Israel of bombing the enclave’s historical and archaeological sites, urging the UN’s cultural agency Unesco to help protect such sites.

“The crime of targeting and destroying archaeological sites should spur the world and Unesco into action to preserve this great civilisational and cultural heritage,” the ministry said.

It estimated that 104 mosques have been razed since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza on October 7.