The Hamilton Spectator

Ramadan begins with hunger and no end to war in sight

- WAFAA SHURAFA AND SAMY MAGDY

Palestinia­ns began fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Monday with ceasefire talks at a standstill, hunger worsening across the Gaza Strip and no end in sight to the 5-month-old war between Israel and Hamas.

Prayers were held outside amid the rubble of demolished buildings. Fairy lights and decoration­s were hung in packed tent camps, and a video from a U.N.-school-turned-shelter showed children dancing and spraying foam as a man sang into a loudspeake­r. But there was little to celebrate after five months of war that has killed over 30,000 Palestinia­ns and left much of Gaza in ruins. Families would ordinarily break the daily sunrise-to-sundown fast with holiday feasts, but even where food is available, there is little beyond canned goods, and the prices are too high for many.

“You don’t see anyone with joy in their eyes,” said Sabah al-Hendi, who was shopping for food Sunday in the southernmo­st city of Rafah.

The United States, Qatar and Egypt had hoped to broker a ceasefire ahead of the normally joyous holiday that would include the release of dozens of Israeli hostages and Palestinia­n prisoners, and the entry of a large amount of humanitari­an aid, but the talks have stalled.

Hamas is demanding guarantees that any such agreement will lead to an end to the war. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected that demand, vowing to continue the offensive until “total victory” against the militant group and the release of all the remaining hostages held in Gaza.

Netanyahu said Monday that Israel had killed “Hamas’ number four” leader and added that more targeted killings were to come.

“Three, two, and one are on the way. They are all dead men. We will reach them all,” he said.

Netanyahu was likely referencin­g the assassinat­ion of Saleh Arouri, the deputy political head of Hamas and a founder of the group’s military wing, who was killed in a blast in Beirut in January. Israel was widely believed to be behind the blast, although it did not take responsibi­lity.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel and Hamas to honour the spirit of Ramadan by “silencing the guns” and releasing all the hostages.

“The eyes of the world are watching. The eyes of history are watching. We cannot look away,” he said. “We must act to avoid more preventabl­e deaths. … Desperate civilians need action — immediate action.”

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. Hamas is still believed to be holding around 100 captives.

The war has driven around 80 per cent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people from their homes and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine. Health officials say at least 25 people, mostly children, have died from malnutriti­on and dehydratio­n in northern Gaza.

Israeli forces have largely sealed off the north since October and aid groups say Israeli restrictio­ns, ongoing hostilitie­s and the breakdown of law and order have made it nearly impossible to safely deliver desperatel­y needed food .

 ?? PETROS KARADJIAS THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Aid packages are seen at left Monday, on a platform near to the docked ship belonging to the Open Arms aid group, centre front, as it prepares to ferry some 200 tonnes of rice and flour directly to Gaza, at the port in Larnaca, Cyprus.
PETROS KARADJIAS THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Aid packages are seen at left Monday, on a platform near to the docked ship belonging to the Open Arms aid group, centre front, as it prepares to ferry some 200 tonnes of rice and flour directly to Gaza, at the port in Larnaca, Cyprus.

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