Ramadan preparations overshadowed by war and hunger in Gaza

Ramadan preparations overshadowed by war and hunger in Gaza

Palestinians have prepared for Ramadan in a sombre mood with heightened security measures by Israeli police and the spectre of war and hunger in Gaza overshadowing the normally festive Muslim holy month as talks to secure a ceasefire have stalled.

Thousands of police have been deployed around the narrow streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of worshippers are expected every day at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The area, considered the most sacred place by Jews who know it as Temple Mount, has been a longstanding flashpoint for trouble and was one of the starting points of the last war in 2021 between Israel and Hamas.

That 10-day conflict has been dwarfed by

, which is now in its sixth month.

It began on 7 October when thousands of Hamas fighters stormed into Israel, killing more than 1,100 people, by Israeli tallies.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza – which has already killed more than 31,000 people – has drawn increasing alarm across the world, amid

.

After some confusion last month when hard-right Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he wanted restrictions on worshippers at Al-Aqsa, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the numbers admitted would be similar to last year.

“This is our mosque and we must take care of it,” said Azzam Al-Khatib, director general of the Jerusalem Waqf, the religious foundation that oversees Al-Aqsa.

“We must protect the presence of Muslims at this mosque, who should be able to enter in big numbers peacefully and safely.”

for Palestinians, following the sighting of the new moon.

But in contrast to previous years, the usual decorations around the Old City have not been put up and there was a similar sombre tone in towns across the occupied West Bank, where around 400 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with security forces, or Jewish settlers since the start of the war.

“We decided this year that the Old City of Jerusalem won’t be decorated out of respect for the blood of our children and the elders and the martyrs,” said Ammar Sider, a community leader in the Old City.

Police said they were working to ensure a peaceful Ramadan and had taken extra measures to crack down on what they described as provocative and distorted information on social media networks and had arrested 20 people suspected of incitement to terrorism.

“The Israel Police will continue to act and allow for the observance of Ramadan prayers safely on the Temple Mount, while maintaining security and safety in the area,” police said in a statement.

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