‘No joy’: Gazans mark sombre Eid in shadow of war

Published June 17, 2024
GAZA CITY: Palestinians perform the Eidul Azha prayer in the courtyard of the Omari Mosque, which has been heavily damaged by Israeli bombardment, on Sunday.—AFP
GAZA CITY: Palestinians perform the Eidul Azha prayer in the courtyard of the Omari Mosque, which has been heavily damaged by Israeli bombardment, on Sunday.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: In tents in the stifling heat and in bombed-out mosques, Gazans marked Sunday the start of Eidul Azha, devoid of the usual cheer as the Israeli aggression raged on.

“There is no joy. We have been robbed of it,” said Malakiya Salman, a 57-year-old displaced woman, now living in a tent in Khan Yunis city in the southern Gaza Strip.

Gazans, like Muslims the world over, would usually slaughter sheep for the holiday — whose Arabic name means “feast of the sacrifice” — and share the meat with the needy.

Parents would also gift children new clothes and money in celebration. But this year, after more than eight months of a devastating Israeli campaign that has flattened much of Gaza, displaced most of the besieged territory’s 2.4 million people and sparked repeated warnings of famine, the Eid is a day of misery for many.

“I hope the world will put pressure to end the war on us, because we are truly dying, and our children are broken,” said Salman.

Her family was displaced from the far-southern city of Rafah, a recent focus of the fighting which began after Hamas’s October 7 raid. The military on Sunday morning annou­nced a “tactical pause of military activity” around a Rafah-area route to facilitate the delivery of desperately needed humani­tarian aid to Gazans.

Many gathered for the Eidul Azha morning prayer in the courtyard of Gaza City’s historic Omari Mosque, which was heavily damaged in Israeli bombardment, placing down their frayed prayer mats next to mounds of rubble.

The sound of prayers travelled down some of the city’s destroyed and abandoned streets. “Since this morning, we’ve felt a sudden calm with no gunfire or bombings... It’s strange,” said 30-year-old Haitham al-Ghura from Gaza City.

He said he hoped that the pause meant a permanent ceasefire was near, though truce mediation efforts have stalled for months.

In several areas of the war-battered territory, especially in Gaza City, young boys were seen manning roadside shops selling perfumes, lotions and other items against the backdrop of piles of rubble from destroyed buildings and homes.

Many vendors used umbrellas to protect themselves from the scorching sun as they sold household items on Gaza City’s main market street. But there were few buyers.

Prices of food and other goods can reach four or five times their usual price, but those who can, cling to the holiday traditions they can still afford.

In Khan Yunis, displaced man Majdi Abdul Raouf spent 4,500 shekels ($1,200) — a small fortune for most Gazans — on a sheep to sacrifice.

“I was determined on buying it despite the high prices, to perform these rituals and bring some joy and happiness to the children in the displacement camp,” said the 60-year-old, who fled his home in Rafah.

“There is sadness, severe pain and suffering, but I insisted on having a different kind of day.”

‘Comfort’

“We’ve lost many people, there’s a lot of destruction,” said Umm Muhammad al-Katri from Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

“This Eid is completely different,” she said, with many Gazans forced to spend the holiday without their loved ones killed or displaced during the war. Grieving families on Sunday flocked to cemeteries and other makeshift burial sites, where wooden planks marked the graves.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2024

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