During Eid al-Adha, Gazans find little to celebrate

After eight devastating months of war, Muslims in Gaza will mark a somber Eid al-Adha on Sunday, a major religious holiday usually celebrated by sharing meat among friends, family and the needy.

Adha means sacrifice and the ritual killing of a sheep, goat or cow on that day is understood as a symbol of the Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. But this year, almost everyone in Gaza is in need. Hunger has gripped the Palestinian territory as Israel unleashed an eight-month military offensive on the enclave and severely limited what is allowed in, including humanitarian aid.

Many don't feel like celebrating.

“There will be no Eid, no Eid atmosphere,” said Zaina Kamuni, who lived with her family in a tent on a sandy stretch in southern Gaza called Al-Mawasi. “I haven't eaten meat in five months.”

“It will be a day like any other, just like Eid al-Fitr,” he added, referring to the other major Muslim holiday, which Gazans observed more than two months ago under the same conditions.

Since the war began on October 7, after the Hamas-led attack on Israel that Israel estimates killed 1,200 people, Gazans have endured regular intense shelling and deprivation. According to Gaza health authorities, more than 37,000 people have been killed and hunger is rampant.

“With continued restrictions on humanitarian access, people in #Gaza continue to face desperate levels of hunger,” UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, wrote on social media on Saturday, adding that more than 50,000 children need treatment for acute malnutrition.

On Sunday, the Israeli army announced a daily pause in military operations near Gaza's southern border crossing to allow more aid into the territory, although it was not immediately clear whether many more supplies would arrive. The United Nations World Food Program warned last week southern Gaza could soon see the catastrophic levels of hunger previously experienced by Gazans in the territory's north.

Many Gazans have clung to hope amid reports of negotiations and proposed ceasefire agreements between Israel and Hamas. But the passing of each holiday – including Christmas and Easter for Gaza's small Christian population – is a reminder of how entrenched this war has become.

In past years, Adnan Abdul Aziz, 53, who lives in Deir al Balah, central Gaza, managed to buy a lamb and slaughter it during Eid. On Eid morning, he and his family ate lamb liver for breakfast and made a traditional Palestinian dish with the meat for lunch. The rest they would give to family, friends and those in need.

Now, due to the lack of electricity and higher costs in the markets, Mr Abdul Aziz has to buy food every day, depending on what is available and what he can afford. But the party isn't the only thing he'll miss this year, he said.

“There are family visits and gatherings, giving money to children, buying new clothes for everyone, baking sweets, saying Eid prayers,” he said. “None of this is feasible this year. Everyone is sad and has lost someone or something.”

Aya Ali Adwan, 26, had become engaged before the war began. Her wedding, set for February, was postponed, another celebration interrupted by the conflict.

Originally from northern Gaza, she and her family were forced to flee eight times during the war. They are now sheltering in a cramped tent in Deir al Balah, where the heat has approached 95 degrees Fahrenheit, making the tent unbearably hot.

“My spirit is broken,” he said. “We should be busy with Eid preparations, such as baking cookies and the usual tasks, such as cleaning the house and buying clothes, like any Palestinian family before Eid. But this year there is nothing.”

Many relatives who would visit their home during Eid were killed during the war, he said.

“Right now, the only thing we need is to feel safe, even if we miss everything,” he said. “The only thing we need is for the war to end and for us to return to our homes.”

Ameera Harouda AND Bilal Shabair contributed to the reporting.

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