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Fear replaces holiday joy in Gaza as fight with Israel escalates

GAZA: Streets across the Gaza enclave during Eid al-Fitr would normally fill up with smartly dressed Palestinians sharing sweets and greetings to mark the start of the Muslim holiday.

“This Eid is different. This Eid comes with bombing, fear and horror,” said 44-year-old Fahd Ramadan, heading briskly home in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza, after a heavy night of Israeli airstrikes during the fiercest flare-up in years.

After leaving his house on Thursday morning to join others in traditional prayers, Ramadan stopped briefly on his way back as he passed the rubble of a building destroyed in the fighting.

Rockets and missiles in dizzying numbers have been exchanged since Monday between Gaza and Israel’s military across the enclave’s boundary.

“Every year, we would dress up and make visits. This year we will not go anywhere,” said 20-year-old Basma al-Farra in Khan Younis, a camp set up for refugees from what is now Israel.

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, a time for celebration with family and friends across the Muslim world after the strictures of daily fasting during the holy month.

In Gaza, a narrow strip of heavily built-up land that is crammed with 2 million people, the usual excitement has turned to mourning for some, with medics putting the death toll in the enclave at 83 so far this week.

Seven people have been killed in Israel, the military says, amid the heaviest exchanges since a war in 2014.

Eid celebrations were also overshadowed in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as inside Israel, where Muslims among Israel’s 21% Arab minority, who are Palestinians by heritage and Israeli by citizenship, have joined other Israelis sheltering from rockets fired in retaliation from Gaza.

Yet, not everyone in Gaza stayed inside. Khamees al-Jabri, 19, who usually offers rides to children on his horse during festivities, was out in Khan Younis. But he found few customers.

READ: At least 56 martyred including children as Israel intensifies relentless air strikes in Gaza

“There is no Eid, and there is no work because of war and missiles,” he said, grabbing his horse’s rein as he walked away.

Others insisted they would mark the holiday in whatever way they could.

“We will celebrate despite the bombing and destruction,” said Khaled Mesleh, 34, in Gaza City. “We will celebrate Eid to tell everyone that Gaza likes life and that Gaza children want to wear the clothes of Eid like all children of the world.”

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