Israel warns of escalation from cross-border fire from Hezbollah

GAZA STRIP: In tents in the sweltering heat and in bombed-out mosques, Gazans marked the start of the Eid Al-Adha holiday on Sunday, devoid of their usual cheer as the war between Israel and Hamas raged.

“There is no joy. We were robbed of it,” said Malakiya Salman, a 57-year-old displaced person now living in a tent in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis.
The inhabitants of Gaza, like Muslims around the world, usually slaughter sheep for the holidays – whose Arabic name means “feast of sacrifice” – and share the meat with the needy.
Parents would also give their children new clothes and money for the celebration.
But this year, after more than eight months of a devastating Israeli campaign that leveled much of Gaza, displaced most of the besieged territory’s 2.4 million people and triggered repeated warnings of famine, Eid is a day of misery for many.
“I hope the world puts pressure on us to end the war because we are really dying and our children are destroyed,” Salman said.
His family was displaced from the far southern city of Rafah, the recent scene of fighting that began after Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel.
On Sunday morning the military announced a “tactical pause in military activity” along the route to Rafah to facilitate the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
AFP correspondents said there had been no reports of attacks or shelling since dawn, although the Israeli military stressed that “there has been no cessation of hostilities in the southern Gaza Strip.”
The brief lull in fighting allowed the faithful a rare moment of holiday calm.
Many gathered for Eid Al-Adha morning prayers in the courtyard of Gaza City’s historic Omari mosque, badly damaged by Israeli bombing, placing their worn prayer mats next to piles of rubble.
The sound of prayers carried through some destroyed and abandoned streets of the city.
“Since this morning we have felt a sudden calm, without shooting or shelling… It’s strange,” said Haitham Al-Ghura, 30, from Gaza City.
He hoped the pause meant a permanent ceasefire was near, even though mediation efforts for a truce have stalled for months.
In several areas of the war-torn territory, especially in Gaza City, young boys were seen running roadside shops selling perfumes, lotions and other items against a 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 takers.
Food and other goods can fetch four or five times their normal price, but those who stick to Christmas traditions can still afford them.
In Khan Younis, displaced person Majdi Abdul Raouf spent 4,500 shekels ($1,200) – a small fortune for most Gazans – on a sheep to sacrifice.
“I was determined to buy it despite the high prices, to perform these rituals and bring some joy and happiness to the children in the IDP camp,” said the 60-year-old, who fled his home in Rafah.
“There is sadness, strong pain and suffering, but I insisted on having a different day.”
Gaza’s bloodiest war ever began after Hamas’ unprecedented attack on October 7.
According to the territory’s Ministry of Health, Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,337 people in Gaza, mostly civilians.
For many, a cessation of fighting will never bring back what has been lost.
“We have lost a lot of people, there is a lot of destruction,” said Umm Mohammed Al-Katri of the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.
“This Eid is completely different,” he said, with many Gazans forced to spend the holiday without their loved ones being killed or displaced in the war.
Grieving families flocked to cemeteries and other makeshift burial sites on Sunday, where wooden planks marked graves.
“I feel comfortable here,” Khalil Diab Essbiah said at the cemetery where his two sons are buried.
Even with the constant buzz of Israeli drones overhead, visitors to the cemetery “can feel relieved by the genocide we are in and the death and destruction,” he said.
Hanaa Abu Jazar, 11, also displaced from Rafah in the Khan Yunis tent city, said: “We see the (Israeli) occupation killing children, women and the elderly.”
“How can we celebrate?” the girl asked.

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