Israel’s ‘Eid Gift to Palestinians*
With Israeli warplanes flying overhead and the sounds of explosions and shelling echoing through the night, the streets of Gaza appeared gloomy and quiet during the early hours of the ‘Eid day.
The Israeli artillery on Monday pounded several areas in eastern Gaza Strip as Palestinians celebrate the first day of ‘Eid ul-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadhan.
Eyewitnesses told Anadolu Agency that Israeli troops fired several shells at the eastern parts of Gaza City and Khan Younis as well as Jabalia and Beit Hanoun in the north.
The shelling, however, left no casualties, medical sources confirmed.
On Sunday, Hamas said that Palestinian resistance factions had accepted a U.N. request for a 24-hour humanitarian truce in the Gaza Strip, starting 11am GMT on Sunday.
“The situation now is an unlimited truce,” Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz, told Israel Radio.
“The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) is free to attack after any fire if there is any.”
Hamas’s armed wing said it killed two Israeli soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli military spokeswoman said a soldier was wounded there but she knew of no fatalities.
Some residents in Gaza reported they had received a recorded telephone message on Monday which said in Arabic:
“Listen Hamas, if you are still alive, you should know that if you continue, we will respond, we will respond violently.”
Israeli leaflets dropped over Gaza listed dozens of names of gunmen from Hamas and its ally, Islamic Jihad, that the military says it has killed since the start of the offensive.
“This list is part of the names of those who thought they could face the might of the Israeli Defense Forces,” read the leaflet, which included a map to a graveyard where the fighters were allegedly buried.
Thousands of Palestinians in the embattled Gaza Strip showed up early Monday to perform the ‘Eid al-Fitr prayers in defiance of an ongoing Israeli onslaught against the blockaded enclave.
Worshippers flocked to the strip’s mosques for the special prayers, which started 6:25am local time (3:25 am GMT), marking the start of the Islamic holiday.
However, many Palestinians living near the border areas where Israeli troops took positions could not perform the prayers over fears of fresh Israeli attacks.
Children were noticeably absent from the scene as their parents opted not to take their sons and daughters to the mosques for the prayers.
Prayers were also confined mainly to mosques as organizers did not have the chance to prepare open areas that used to accommodate thousands of worshippers who usually gather to perform the ‘Eid prayers and celebrate the start of the feast.
The Palestinian authorities said that around 70 mosques were not open for the prayers because they were damaged in the ongoing Israeli military offensive.
In their sermons, the Palestinian clerics urged their fellow countrymen to show patience and support for the resistance and pray for victory and those fallen during the Israeli attacks.
“This is a holiday of seeing people get martyred, of seeing destruction. What holiday is this? Who has the heart to enjoy the holiday?” said an elderly woman, Um Mustafa Jarbou, tears streaming down her face as she sat on a schoolroom floor.
She came from the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, but, like so many others, had fled ahead of the Israeli advance.
“When we eat food, it tastes like poison. Shame on them. Where is the world? Where is everybody?” she asked, sharing a commonly held view that the outside world, including many fellow Arabs, has turned their back on their plight.
At this time of the year, streets of the Gaza Strip are usually busy with local residents spending the early hours of the first day of ‘Eid al-Fitr outdoors for last-hour shopping or late-night outing. But it is different this year.
With Israeli warplanes flying overhead and the sounds of explosions and shelling echoing through the night, the streets of Gaza appeared gloomy and quiet during the early hours of the ‘Eid day with no activity whatsoever.
“You would not find any Palestinian celebrating the advent of ‘Eid al-Fitr this year,” Hossam al-Ranteesi, a 32-year-old cab driver, told Anadolu Agency.
“Scenes of death and destruction and the smell of blood are everywhere in Gaza’s streets, and the Israeli shelling is still ongoing. There is no celebration for us this year,” he added.
“How should a mother feel when she opens her eyes on the day of Eid and does not see her son next to her?” said Abir Shammaly, whose son was killed during heavy Israeli shelling of the Shejaia district in east Gaza last week.
Instead of celebrating with the living, Shammaly sat next to her son’s freshly dug grave, joining many other Gazans who were paying their respects to more than 1,000 people, many of them civilians, who have died so far in the fighting.
Her young daughter silently pushed pink and white flowers into the mound of freshly dug earth.
“The world is watching us, but they do not feel for us. Why did they waste the lives of the Palestinian people? Why did they do this to us?” said Shammaly, who also lost her house in the bombardment of Shejaia.
The Palestinian death toll from Israel’s ongoing devastating military offensive in the blockaded Gaza Strip rose to 1035 on Monday, a Health Ministry official said.
Three Palestinians on early Monday succumbed to injuries they sustained days ago in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qodra told Anadolu Agency.
A fourth Palestinian was killed in an Israeli shelling of eastern Khan Younis in the south, he added.
He added that at least 6233 Gazans had been injured since the beginning of the Israeli onslaught on July 7, which Israel said aims at halting rocket fire emanating from the blockaded strip.
Apart from the human toll, Israel also destroyed 2330 Gaza housing units and partially destroyed 23,160 other apartment blocks, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Works and Housing.
“Life here has stopped by the Israeli war,” al-Ranteesi, who was heading to a western Gaza City hospital to visit his wounded son, told AA.
“Everyone fears that they might be the next target of the Israeli airstrikes. That’s why no one goes out, except for emergency and only during daytime,” he added.
Nearby, a group of Palestinian youths, displaced by the Israeli shelling of Shujaya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, gathered at the garden of a U.N. school that provides them with shelter for a chat in a bid to forget their woes.
“This is our first time to spend the ‘Eid without any celebration,” Khaled al-Beltagi, 25, told AA. “In the past Eids, we used to spend the night at the markets and cafes until the morning,” he said.
“We don’t feel any joy this year. Everyone here has their share of the grief. Some had their family members killed, others had their homes destroyed,” he went on to say.
“There is a tragedy at every house. How do you expect us to celebrate?”
Israel’s military operation, dubbed operation “Protective Edge,” is the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s third major offensive against the densely-populate Gaza Strip – which is home to some 1.8 million Palestinians – within the last six years.
On Saturday, rescue workers managed during a 12-hour humanitarian lull to recover the bodies of 117 Palestinians, including children and women, from the rubble of homes devastated by Israeli strikes on the eastern and southern parts of Gaza.
At Gaza’s largest hospital, a group of youths came to distribute sweets to wounded children, whose small bodies bore the angry red scars of war. Efforts to bring some joy to the packed wards floundered.
“I do not know about ‘Eid. Maybe there is an ‘Eid outside. We are all wounded here,” said Inas Ashour, 16, who suffered a head injury during shelling in the eastern Gaza suburb of Zeitoun.
Asked if she was happy, 5-year-old Aya Al-Namla, thought for a while as she lay on her bed. “Yes, before the bombardment.”
Six Palestinians retrieved from under Gaza rubble
Palestinian medics on Monday recovered six bodies from under the rubble of homes in the southern Gaza Strip, which has been reeling under unabated Israeli attacks for three weeks now.
“The six bodies were retrieved from under the rubble in the Khuza’a town,” Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qodra told Anadolu Agency.
He said medics were allowed into the town in coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate the victims.
According to eyewitnesses, Israeli forces opened fire on ambulances and barred medics from entering the town.
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