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Gazans live on memories of past Eid festivals as war ruins special day

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 air strikes, 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, getting him ready. 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.”

‘SAD FOR THE DAYS THAT HAVE PASSED’

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 and 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.

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

Instead, he endures Israeli airstrikes that have turned much of Gaza, a densely-populated Hamas-run enclave, into rows of rubble and dust.

The war erupted on Oct. 7 when the Palestinian Islamist group burst across the border and rampaged in southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel responded with ferocious air strikes and a ground invasion which has killed over 33,000 Palestinians, 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.

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

Another resident, Abu Shaer, called on his fellow Muslims to try to draw some strength from the Eid holiday.

“Despite the great feeling of pain and the continuous Zionist killing during the last six months of our lives, we must show joy on this day,” he said.

PRAYERS AND PROTEST

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.

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.”

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. “Our Eid is on the day of the victory of the resistance, the victory of Gaza.”

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