Palestinians mark sombre first Eid since outbreak of war in Gaza


Palestinians visited the graves of loved ones killed in the Gaza war and prayed beside the wreckage of a mosque and in shattered streets as the devastating conflict cast a pall over the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Millions of Muslims around the world are observing Eid, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, with festivities, feasts and family gatherings. But few in Gaza can take solace from this special time for Muslims. After six months of war, their focus is on surviving Israeli airstrikes, shelling, a ground offensive and a humanitarian crisis.

Amany Mansour and her mother stood at her young son’s grave, recalling happier times. She said the last Eid was the best one of her life.

“My son was beside me, in my arms … Everything he wanted I did for him,” she said.

“I wish he was here with me. He would go to the mosque in the morning and say to me, ‘Prepare my present for when I return.’ Gone. Everything good about my life is gone.”

A woman in a headscarf sits in a field with stone graves and concrete pieces of debris.
Many Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday visited graves of people who were killed in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, on the day of Eid al-Fitr. (Mahmoud Issa/Reuters)

‘I feel heartbroken’

During better times, people like Mahmoud al-Hamaydeh in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah would gather with family and friends for festivities and big meals during the Eid holiday.

“This day, for me, is heartbreaking, compared to last Eid. I look at my children and I feel heartbroken. When I sit with them I start to cry, feeling sad for the days that have passed,” said Hamaydeh, who is now pushed in a wheelchair after being wounded by the Israeli military.

“Last Eid, I was surrounded by my children, looking at them with joy. But today I am injured, unable to move or go anywhere.”

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The war erupted on Oct. 7 when Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group considered a terrorist organization by many Western governments, led a rampage in southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, including several Canadians. 

According to Israeli tallies, 253 more were taken hostage, with some 130 still unaccounted for.

Israel responded with ferocious airstrikes and a ground invasion that has killed more than 33,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials, wounded more than 75,000 and created a humanitarian crisis.

Most of the enclave’s 2.3 million people are homeless. Hospitals have been destroyed, medicine is in short supply and many Gazans are at risk of famine.

As Palestinians look around the Gaza Strip, there is little to celebrate. Israel has said it will keep up the military pressure until it destroys Hamas.

Dozens of people kneel with heads on the floor in a religious ceremony in an urban setting.
Palestinians attend Eid al-Fitr prayers in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. (Mahmoud Issa/Reuters)

Children played among the crushed cement and twisted medal left by airstrikes, near the ruins of Rafah’s al Farouk mosque, which was struck in an Israeli attack.

Worshippers knelt in the street next to the wreckage of the the mosque, laying out their prayer mats in the shadow of a white minaret, still standing amid the otherwise flattened building.

More than one million people are crammed into Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, having fled bombardments of their homes further north. It is the last relatively safe place in Gaza. But Israel has repeatedly flagged plans to assault Rafah to destroy remaining battalions of Hamas.

A woman holds up a small child as another takes a photograph of the child, with a domed religious structure shown in the background.
A Muslim woman holds up a child on Eid al-Fitr for a photograph at Al-Aqsa compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem on Wednesday. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Gaza on minds of Muslims worldwide

Elsewhere in the Middle East, where many have lived through war and sectarian bloodshed, Muslims prayed for an end to the war.

“We turn to God asking for a near relief and victory for our brothers in Palestine,” said Omar Nizar Karim in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. “This is a message we are sending today from this blessed place to our people in Gaza and to our people in Palestine.”

Dozens of women in headscarves are shown at a public gathering outdoors.
Demonstrators gather in Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday during a protest after Eid al-Fitr prayers in support of Palestinians in Gaza. (Jehad Shelbak/Reuters)

In Jordan, pro-Palestinians gathered near the Israeli embassy in Amman to show their solidarity with Gaza’s people.

“The title of the protest today is ‘There is no Eid while Gaza is annihilated,'” said Abdel Majid Rantisi. 

In Istanbul, thousands of worshippers gathered at the Aya Sofya Mosque for morning Eid prayers, some carrying Palestinian flags and chanting slogans in support of people in Gaza.

In a holiday message, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent support to Gaza, which he called a “bleeding wound on the conscience of humanity.”

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