First Week of Ramadan in Gaza: No Food, No Mosques for Prayer

Palestinians perform Friday prayers around the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque Worshippers perform Friday prayers around the ruins of Al-Farouq Mosque on March 8, days ahead of Ramadan (photo: NBC News)

Sorrow and misery linger over the tents of displaced individuals in the Gaza Strip, particularly in the city of Rafah, where over 1.5 million Palestinian citizens are crowded due to the ongoing Israeli war of genocide. They find themselves prey to hunger and thirst even during the holy month of Ramadan.

As quoted from Wafa on Sunday, Maysaa Al-Balbisi, a 39-year-old woman from Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, stood tearfully, holding her infant daughter in her arms, in front of a simple tent. Inside, she resides with her husband and two children in a makeshift shelter set up in the playground of the Shaboura market in Rafah.

Clad in black, mourning the loss of her relatives and the destruction of their homes, she expressed her despair about what to prepare for iftar on the first day of Ramadan. Speaking to France Presse, she said, “God is sufficient for us, there is nothing in the tent except one tomato and a small cheese tin without any bread.”

She added, “Everything is expensive; we can’t afford to buy vegetables, and even fruits are unavailable… For suhoor, we had a few pieces of canned meat. We cannot afford to buy anything. Even the simplest things have skyrocketed in price.”

“This is not life; there is no water to drink or to wash our hands or cook food… Until now, we don’t know what we will have for iftar. We used to buy Ramadan supplies days before. But now, even cheese is exorbitantly priced,” she continued.

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Her husband, Zaki Hussein Abu Mansour, 63, recounted how Israeli forces invaded Khan Younis near Rafah, where they were displaced initially, “without warning. Tanks bombarded homes, and the shelling continued above us for seven hours. Then we left with whatever clothes we had… Life here is very difficult. I’ve lost 20 kilograms, and I suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. We cannot even afford a kilo of tomatoes…”

He lamented, “We are tired of food and life, martyrdom is better. I wish planes would bomb us and I die; that would be better than this life.”

The Gaza Strip, under continuous Israeli aggression by land, sea, and air, is facing extremely dire humanitarian conditions, reaching the brink of famine, amidst severe shortages in food, water, medicine, and fuel.

The Israeli authorities continue to block and hinder the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, especially into northern areas. The aid reaching the southern part of the strip does not meet the needs of the residents, especially in Rafah, considered the last refuge for displaced individuals. Despite its limited area of approximately 65 square kilometers, Rafah hosts over 1.4 million Palestinians.

On the first night of Ramadan, around 500 worshippers managed to perform Taraweeh prayers at the Al-Awda Mosque, the largest in Rafah. However, they did not receive the usual distribution of water and dates, and Ramadan lanterns were not lit due to power outages. The worshippers relied on their phones amidst the darkness.

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Aside from the rubble of the Al-Farouq Mosque in Rafah, targeted by Israeli airstrikes two weeks earlier, volunteers laid mats in preparation for Taraweeh prayers.

However, hundreds of thousands of worshippers will not be able to perform these prayers in mosques across the strip, as hundreds of them have been reduced to rubble or damaged due to Israeli bombardment.

In a preliminary toll, the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip has resulted in nearly 32,000 Palestinians killed, the majority of whom are children and women, with injuries reaching 73,000 since October 7th of last year.

The specter of famine looms over the besieged enclave, where most of its inhabitants suffer from shortages of water, food, medicine, and fuel, according to the United Nations and testimonies of residents.

Rafah’s market has been stripped of its Ramadan decorations, with most food items, vegetables, and sweets unavailable. Only a few stalls display some kunafa stuffed with nuts or cheese, priced at up to 80 shekels ($22) per kilogram, beyond the means of most people.

In the Al-Awda Square in central Rafah, some stalls exhibit small lanterns, while young men sell canned tuna, beans, chickpeas, cheese, peanut butter, and Egyptian dates they acquired as aid from displaced individuals. Others offer a few loaves of flatbread baked on wood stoves.

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Displaced individuals speak with one voice expressing their pain and sorrow. Jamal Al-Khatib says, “There is no food at all, so how will we break our fast in Ramadan? How can we rejoice when there is no shelter, electricity, or water?”

Ahmed Khamees, 40, says, “There is no taste to Ramadan in this dirty and bloody war, a war of extermination, with no food or drink.”

Aouni Al-Kayyal, 50, describes Ramadan as “beginning sadly, shrouded in darkness, with the taste of death, blood, explosions, and bombardments. I heard the sound of the dawn caller… I woke up in my simple tent and found myself crying for our situation.”

Al-Kayyal adds, “The occupation does not want us to enjoy Ramadan. We have no food for iftar. My wife served the children some cheese and beans from the scarce aid we receive, along with old bread for suhoor. We couldn’t even find tea to make for them.”

Aya Abu Toha, 16, misses the “sweet life during Ramadan and its beautiful atmosphere… Everything was available, food, salads, vegetables, and fruits… Today, there is only destruction… They stole our lives.” (T/RE1/P2)

Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)