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Byzantine-era church reopens in Gaza

Byzantine Church in Gaza, one of the oldest in the Levant and the Middle East, is open!

A Byzantine-era church which was uncovered in Gaza in 1997 was re-opened on Monday after undergoing months of renovations, Quds Press reported.

Isam Daalis, head of the Management Committee, and Christian cleric in Gaza, Archbishop Alexios of Tiberias, took part in the re-opening ceremony.

According to Quds Press, the remains of the church, which dates back to the fifth century, was revealed in the northern Gaza city of Jabalia in 1997.

It was abandoned, but the Hamas run-government insisted on renovating and re-opening it, considering the church as part of Christian history in Gaza.

The church floor is adorned with "rare mosaics," including depictions of animals, hunting scenes and palm trees.

Visitors can now see the mosaics while walking through newly-built, elevated wooden walkways.

Read: Jerusalem church leader says Israeli extremists threaten Christian presence city

Gaza's Tourism Ministry said the church's original walls were adorned with religious texts written in ancient Greek, dating from the era of Emperor Theodosius II, who ruled Byzantium from the year 408 to 450.

During the ceremony, both Daalis and Archbishop Alexios spoke about the "strong relations" between Muslims and Christians in Gaza.

Daalis said the site's restoration was an example of Hamas' "embracing" of its "Christian brothers in Gaza."

According to Gaza church statistics, there are about 1,000 Christians in Gaza.

The number was higher before 2007, but like the other Gaza residents, Christians emigrated to look for better living conditions after the start of the strict Israeli siege imposed on the enclave.

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