A Usually Joyous Muslim Holiday Reminds Families in Gaza of War's Punishing Toll

Palestinian children play in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Palestinian children play in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
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A Usually Joyous Muslim Holiday Reminds Families in Gaza of War's Punishing Toll

Palestinian children play in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)
Palestinian children play in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Last summer, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip celebrated the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha the way it's supposed to be: with large family feasts, meat shared with those less fortunate, and new clothes and gifts for children.
But this year, after eight months of devastating war between Israel and Hamas, many families will eat canned food in stifling tents. There's hardly any meat or livestock at local markets, and no money for holiday treats or presents — only war, hunger and misery, with no end in sight, said The Associated Press on Saturday.
“There is no Eid this year," said Nadia Hamouda, whose daughter was killed in the war and who fled from her home in northern Gaza months ago and is staying in a tent in the central town of Deir al-Balah. “When we hear the call to prayer, we cry over those we lost and the things we lost, and what has happened to us, and how we used to live before.”
Muslims around the world will celebrate the four-day Eid al-Adha.
Gaza was impoverished and isolated even before the war, but people still managed to celebrate by hanging up colorful decorations, surprising children with treats and gifts, and purchasing meat or slaughtering livestock to share with those less fortunate.
“It was a real Eid," Hamouda said. “Everyone was happy, including the children.”
Now much of Gaza is in ruins and most of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes. After Hamas' surprise attack into Israel on Oct. 7, in which Hamas killed some 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage, Israel launched a massive air and ground assault.
The war has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. It has destroyed most of Gaza's agriculture and food production, leaving people reliant on humanitarian aid that has been held up by Israeli restrictions and the ongoing fighting.
United Nations agencies have warned that over a million people — nearly half the population — could experience the highest level of starvation in the coming weeks.
Ashraf Sahwiel, who was among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled from Gaza City earlier in the war and is also living in a tent, has no idea when or if he'll be able to return.
“We don’t even know what happened to our houses or whether we’ll be able to live in them again, or if it’s even possible to rebuild,” he said.
Abdelsattar al-Batsh said he and his family of seven haven’t eaten meat since the war began. A kilogram (2 pounds) of meat costs 200 shekels (around $50). A live sheep, which could be bought for as little as $200 before the war, now costs $1,300 — if it's even available.
“Today, there is only war. No money. No work. Our houses have been destroyed. I have nothing,” al-Batsh said.
Iyad al-Bayouk, who owns a now-shuttered cattle farm in southern Gaza, said severe shortages of both livestock and feed due to Israel’s blockade have driven up prices. Some local farms have been turned into shelters.
Mohammed Abdel Rahim, who has been sheltering in a building in an empty cattle farm in central Gaza for months, said the farm-turned-shelter was particularly bad in the winter, when it smelled like animals and was infested with bugs. As the heat set in, the ground dried out, making it more bearable, he said.
Abdelkarim Motawq, another displaced Palestinian from northern Gaza, used to work in the local meat industry, which did brisk business ahead of the holiday. This year, his family can only afford rice and beans.
“I wish I could work again,” he said. “It was a busy season for me, during which I would bring money home and buy food, clothing, nuts, and meat for my children. But today there’s nothing left.”



Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
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Israeli Forces Advance in Southern Gaza, Tanks Active in Rafah

This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)
This picture taken in Khan Yunis shows smoke billowing during Israeli military operations in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 24, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas. (Photo by Bashar TALEB / AFP)

Israeli forces advanced deeper into some towns on the eastern side of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Thursday, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US lawmakers he was actively engaged in bringing hostages home.
Fighting in recent days has centered around the eastern towns of Bani Suaila, Al-Zanna, and Al-Karara, where the army said on Wednesday it had found the bodies of five Israelis who were killed in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel and held in Gaza since, Reuters said.
Hamas militants took more than 250 hostages in the early morning raid into southern Israel and killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel retaliated by vowing to eradicate Hamas in Gaza in a nine-month war that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, Gaza health officials say.
Several were wounded in the eastern towns during Israeli tank and aerial shelling, while an airstrike east of Khan Younis killed four people, Palestinian health officials said.
Israeli bombardment intensified in several areas in Rafah, near the border with Egypt, as tanks operated north, west and in the town center, residents and medics said. Several Palestinians were also wounded in Israeli fire earlier on Thursday.
The Israeli military said forces operating in Khan Younis killed dozens of militants and dismantled around 50 military infrastructures, while it continued activities in Rafah, killing two militants.
In a speech to the US Congress, Netanyahu said his government was actively involved in seeking the release of remaining hostages and was confident they would succeed.
DISAPPOINTING SPEECH
Hamas described the comments by Netanyahu as "pure lies" accusing him of thwarting efforts to end the war.
Netanyahu's comments also disappointed many displaced Palestinians who had hoped for a clearer signal of an imminent end to the fighting, which has laid the overcrowded enclave to waste and created a humanitarian crisis.
"It was depressing, he didn't even mention ceasefire at all, not even once," said Tamer Al-Burai, a resident of Gaza City, now displaced in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip.
"People awaited some surprise, a ceasefire announcement by Netanyahu as a gift to (US President Joe) Biden, but they slept with much disappointment, as Netanyahu said he was determined to pursue war," Burai told Reuters via a chat app.
Deir Al-Balah, where tanks haven't yet invaded, is currently overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, displaced from other areas of the enclave, home to 2.3 million people.
"Netanyahu spoke in a play, he spoke to clowns," said Burai.
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators, backed by the United States, to conclude a ceasefire deal, seemed to be on hold, as Israel was expected to send a delegation for more talks next week.
In northern Gaza, an Israeli air strike on a house in the Sheikh Radwan suburb killed four people, medics said, while seven Palestinians arrived at a hospital in central Gaza who had been detained by Israeli forces and released in an area close to the border.