End of Ramadan Is Marked by War and Hunger in Gaza: Israel-Hamas War Live Updates

As Eid al-Fitr approached, Amani Abu Awda’s four children began asking her for new clothes and toys — festive items that Muslims customarily buy to celebrate the holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

But the mother of four from northern Gaza is now displaced with her family in a tent in the southern city of Rafah, far from any sense of festivity and the home that once hosted large family gatherings.

“Oh God, I couldn’t get anything for them because of the high prices,” she said Saturday, days before most Muslims worldwide would celebrate Eid al-Fitr. “I had to go try and find used clothing. In normal days, we would never buy such things. But I couldn’t even find any used clothes.”

Eid al-Fitr — the three-day celebration beginning Wednesday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan — used to be a joyful time in Gaza. But with famine threatening Gaza amid Israel’s continuing military offensive, Palestinians there say there is little to celebrate.

Ms. Abu Awda’s family managed to take some clothes with them when they fled their home in Jabaliya two months ago. But at a checkpoint, Israeli soldiers made them throw away everything they were carrying as they walked along a dangerous road where some Palestinians had disappeared into detention and others were killed in Israeli airstrikes, she said.

“What kind of Eid is this?” Ms. Abu Awda said, adding, “We have lost so much. We have lost family and loved ones. We have lost our homes and we have lost safety. The feeling of death is with us in every moment, and the smell of death is everywhere.”

More than anything, Ms. Abu Awda said, they want a cease-fire for Eid.

Hospital staff providing aid to an injured Palestinian at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, on Tuesday.Credit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Much like Ramadan, a month of daylong fasts and religious observance, was marked by bittersweet remembrances of how it used to be observed before Israel’s war in Gaza, Eid too will be characterized by longing comparisons for how different things were just a year ago.

Before the war, malls would be packed with families buying new clothes for the holiday and sweets to offer all the relatives that would come by to visit in the days leading up to Eid.

Now those relatives are almost all displaced, packed into small homes with others or sweltering tents made of plastic sheeting.

Many Muslims in the Middle East visit the graves of their loved ones on Eid. But with so many killed since the war began in October and with many of them buried in makeshift graves or yet to be recovered from under the rubble, holding onto that tradition now is impossible for most.

The Gaza Ministry of Health says that more than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza over six months of Israeli bombardment.

In Gaza City, some people have strung small lights or paper decorations in the streets. But it has done little to combat the overall grim feeling, said Alina Al-Yazji, a 20-year-old university student.

“The streets, instead of smelling like cookies and mamoul and sumaqia and faseekh and all these wonderful smells,” Ms. Al-Yazji said, naming some of the traditional sweet and savory dishes eaten during Eid, “instead, the streets smell of blood and killing and destruction.”

As she spoke, the sound of an Israeli fighter jet roared overhead.

Displaced Palestinians prepare traditional cakes before Eid al-Fitr, in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Tuesday.Credit…Haitham Imad/EPA, via Shutterstock

Sitting in her tent in Rafah, Muna Daloob, 50, couldn’t help but remember past holidays, before her family fled their home in Gaza City.

She said she isn’t making any Eid cookies or mamoul or faseekh because she doesn’t have cooking gas and all the ingredients, including flour and sugar, are too expensive or in short supply.

She held out hope that she could at least find — and afford — the smallest of gifts to bring a smile to her grandchildren: a lollipop.

For 22-year-old Mohammad Shehada, like other Palestinian men, Eid comes with the expectation to give monetary gifts, called a eidiya.

In most Muslim cultures, adults give small eidiyas to children. But Palestinians give the money to both children and adult female relatives. Even before the war, some Palestinian men in Gaza struggled to afford to give the eidiya as a result of a 17-year land, air and sea blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and supported by Egypt. Now, in the middle of war, the eidiya will be all but impossible for most people.

“The cheer of the kids gathering around you when you give them a eidiya, we’re not able to give it this year, and we’re going to feel ashamed,” he said.

Mr. Shehada hoped that some mosques, most of which have become shelters for the many displaced Gazans, would still hold morning Eid prayers. He hoped that he would be able to eat faseekh, a fermented fish dish, the simplest of Eid enjoyments, he said.

“I have a lot of hopes for Eid,” he said, “but firstly for them to end this revolting war.”

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