In Gaza, even holy month of Ramadan reminds Palestinians of their desperation

By Thomson Reuters Mar 21, 2024 | 10:09 AM

By Mahmoud Issa

GAZA (Reuters) – At a Gaza school run by the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, thousands of people who have fled Israeli airstrikes barely have enough food to break the daily Ramadan fast, unlike fellow Muslims elsewhere marking the holy month with post-fast treats.

“Go and check all the markets … You wouldn’t find a single can of fava beans or chickpeas for the kids to eat,” said Basel al-Soueidi, sheltering in the Jabalia refugee camp.

In Ramadan, extended families usually gather for festive meals, pray together and gather around seasonal television dramas.

Soueidi must make do with a few red lentils for the surviving members of his family, 17 of whom have been killed in the war.

“I miss them all – there is no food or water, there is nothing. All my cousins died, there’s no one left. We used to all gather during Ramadan, with my uncle,” he said, close to tears.

“We used to visit our siblings, aunts, our loved ones. No one’s left, they were all martyred. All our loved ones are gone.”

Nearby, women prepared a fire for cooking, a few of them lucky enough to have greens, or dough to roll, or lentils, wondering if life will ever return to normal in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas of the world.

The war began when Hamas militants burst into Israel from the Gaza Strip, killed 1,200 people and took over 200 hostages, according to Israel’s tally.

Israel’s retaliatory assault has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians and reduced much of Gaza to rubble, and efforts by Qatar and Egypt have failed to produce a desperately need ceasefire.

Fayik al-Kufarnah washed dishes outside his tent.

“Killing us is better than this life. We are not living,” he said. “We are alive due to lack of death,”

(Writing by Michael Georgy)