Palestinians mark sombre Eid in shadow of war

News Desk
Monday, Jun 17, 2024


RAMALLAH: Around 40,000 Palestinians Sunday offered Eidul Azha prayers in a somber and cheerless atmosphere at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem amid attacks and resistance by the Israeli security forces.

In a statement, the Jerusalem-based Islamic Endowments Department said only about 40,000 worshippers performed Eidul Azha prayers due to the strict closure on worshippers preventing thousands from entering.

The Palestinian news agency, WAFA, reported that “the (Israeli) occupation forces attacked worshippers on Sunday morning on their way to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and as they were leaving it and prevented dozens from entering to perform Eid prayers.”

“In the early morning hours, occupation forces entered the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque, checked the identities of worshippers, obstructed their movement, and prevented many young men from entering, forcing them to pray outside the mosque's doors,” it added, reports the international media.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians performed Eidul Azha prayers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, in the southern occupied West Bank, despite security restrictions imposed by the Israeli army on the entry of worshippers.

Head of the Hebron Endowments Department, Ghassan Al-Rajabi, told Anadolu that “the measures taken by the occupation on Eidul Azha aim to prevent Palestinians' access to the holy sites, especially the Ibrahimi Mosque”.

“Despite all these measures, between 8,000 and 10,000 Palestinians offered Eidul Azha prayers in the mosque,” he added.

Worshippers must pass through military checkpoints and then electronic gates to enter the Ibrahimi Mosque and pray there, according to Anadolu correspondent.

This year’s Eidul Azha holiday comes amid an Israeli brutal offensive on the Gaza Strip since an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Nearly 37,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by the Israeli forces since October last year, most of them women and children, and almost 85,200 others injured, according to local health authorities.

More than eight months into the Israeli onslaught, vast tracts of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water, and medicine.

Israel is accused of genocide in the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

“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 attack on southern Israel.

The Israeli 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.

AFP correspondents said there were no reports of strikes or shelling since dawn, though the Israeli military stressed there was “no cessation of hostilities in the southern Gaza Strip”.

Many gathered for the Eid 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.”

The United Nations welcomed the Israeli move, although “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need”, said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, calling for “further concrete measures” on aid needs. He told AFP Gazans “urgently need food, water, sanitation, shelter, and healthcare, with many living near piles of solid waste, heightening health risks. We need to be able to deliver aid safely throughout Gaza.”

UN agencies and aid groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm of dire shortages of food and other essentials in the Gaza Strip, exacerbated by overland access restrictions and the closure of the key Rafah crossing with Egypt since Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side in early May.

Israel has long defended its efforts to let aid into Gaza including via its Kerem Shalom border near Rafah, blaming militants for looting supplies and humanitarian workers for failing to distribute them to civilians.

“A local, tactical pause of military activity for humanitarian purposes will take place from 8:00 am (0500 GMT) until 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) every day until further notice along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah al-Din road and then northwards,” a military statement said.

A map released by the army showed the declared humanitarian route extending until Rafah’s European Hospital, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from Kerem Shalom.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken extended warm Eidul Azha wishes for millions of Muslims in the US and across the world.

In a message, he said, “On behalf of the United States, I extend warm wishes for a blessed Eidul Azha to Muslims celebrating here and across the world. For the millions of Muslims who performed the Haj pilgrimage, we also wish the returning pilgrims a Haj Mabroor.

“We know Eid arrives this year at a time when many Muslims are experiencing deep pain. Our thoughts are with those facing repression or the effects of conflict, as well as those experiencing the global surge in hate-fueled violence and other forms of Islamophobia.

“For many who celebrate, Eidul Azha is a commemoration of faith, sacrifice, and hope restored for a better future. Today, we recognize the lea dership of Muslim Americans and the contributions of so many Muslim communities across the globe to building a better world, and we recommit to work for a more peaceful future in which all can enjoy freedom and prosperity. Eid Mubarak.”