Palestinians mark sombre Eid al-Adha amid devastation and deprivation

Instead of enjoying family gatherings, many Gazans visited graves

A wrecked mosque amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Sunday. Photograph: Ahmad Salem/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Palestinians in Gaza mourned lost lives, homes and livelihoods during Eid al-Adha last weekend instead of enjoying family gatherings, rich meals and giving gifts to children and donations to the poor.

At least 41 people were reported killed by Israeli attacks in the strip on Sunday.

Celebrated during the Hajj pilgrimage, Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice, commemorates the story told in Islam, Christianity and Judaism of God’s command to the prophet Abraham to sacrifice a ram rather than his son.

As the sole exit and entry crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egypt at Rafah has been closed by the Israeli army, which bulldozed terminal buildings on Sunday, Gaza’s residents have been unable to go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars.


Some 4,200 West Bank residents reportedly performed the Hajj this year, while Saudi King Salman invited 1,000 Gazans living outside the strip to take part.

In Gaza, prayers took place in the ruins of the historic Omayyad mosque in Gaza City and beside the rubble of some of the estimated 800 mosques damaged or destroyed during Israel’s bombing campaign. Instead of celebrating Eid, many Gazans visited graves of relatives in makeshift cemeteries.

Rendered homeless by the Israeli onslaught, which began in response to the Hamas attacks on October 7th that left 1,200 people dead in Israel, 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants are living in tents, schools and abandoned buildings. More than 37,400 people have died and 85,000 have been injured, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

As wells are polluted and desalination plants do not have power to operate, Gazans struggle to find drinking water. Farmers who used to provide fresh foods cannot raise and harvest crops or feed livestock.

Since humanitarian supplies are in short supply, families subsist on tinned food and bread. The price of lamb has risen tenfold since the war began, while the price of rice and fresh vegetables imported from Israel has also soared. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation has said that one million Gazans face “death and starvation by mid-July”.

UN Palestinian refugee agency Unrwa held Eid games for displaced children at al-Mawasi and Deir al-Balah at the weekend. Gazan parents cannot afford the tradition of giving new clothes to their children. The UN children’s agency Unicef says 100 per cent suffer from trauma and depression. More than 8,000 under five have received treatment for severe acute malnutrition and 28 have died, according to the World Health Organisation.

In Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police prevented young men and West Bank residents from attending special Eid prayers in al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City. Instead of the usual crowd of 140,000, only 40,000 middle-aged and older East Jerusalemites could participate.

West Bank residents faced long waits at Israeli checkpoints when travelling between towns and villages to visit relatives.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times