Ramadan to begin in Gaza with no ceasefire in sight

Saudi Arabia's King Salman says 'painful' holy month to start against backdrop of 'Palestinian suffering'

What will the holy month of Ramadan be like in Gaza?

What will the holy month of Ramadan be like in Gaza?
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

Gazans are set to begin the month of Ramadan with no end in sight to the war that has brought death and destruction to the enclave.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman said on Sunday that it was “painful” that the holy month was beginning amid “Palestinian suffering”.

The king urged the international community to assume its responsibilities to “stop these brutal crimes and provide safe humanitarian corridors” to Gaza in some of his strongest comments on the five-month Israel-Gaza war yet.

Weeks of talks have failed to secure a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel before the holy month, despite last-ditch attempts by mediators from the US, Qatar and Egypt.

US President Joe Biden had urged Israel to agree to a pause in the war in which more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages.

Sources with direct knowledge of the truce negotiations told The National that mediators were still working on reaching a deal on Sunday.

But no truce had been agreed as the sighting of the new crescent moon on Sunday night heralded the beginning of Ramadan on Monday.

Rather than moving towards a ceasefire, Israel appeared to be preparing for an offensive on the southern city of Rafah, where about 1.5 million Palestinians are thought to be sheltering.

President Biden described an Israeli offensive on Rafah as a “red line” this weekend, but then immediately backtracked on his comments.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini repeated his call for a ceasefire in Gaza as he highlighted the conditions in the enclave on the eve of Ramadan.

“For the people of Gaza, it comes as extreme hunger spreads, displacement continues & fear + anxiety prevail amid threats of a military operation on Rafah,” he said in a post on X.

Many families will be forced to observe Ramadan in overcrowded shelters without food, clean water or other essentials.

“This will be the most difficult Ramadan we will experience, as we are living in the midst of a famine with no food or drink,” Islam Ibrahim, 38, told The National from Gaza city.

Children are dying from malnutrition in northern Gaza, where Israel has restricted the flow of aid.

Those lorries that have been allowed in have been met by desperate crowds seeking to secure precious food.

International efforts to provide aid are picking up momentum after the UAE, US, UK and EU said they would open a sea corridor through Cyprus.

Mr Biden said the US military would build a temporary port on Gaza's Mediterranean coast to receive humanitarian aid by sea.

However, the Pentagon has said it will take up to 60 days to deliver the forces and resources needed to construct the floating causeway.

Aid drops by plane are also continuing, but sporadic, and aid groups have said that Israel allowing more aid in by land is the only way to provide enough relief for Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

Many of those Gazans have nowhere to live after months of war have flattened whole districts, with Israel continuing to bombard the overcrowded enclave.

These desperate conditions mean this year’s Ramadan will be a far more sombre affair.

“I used to perform the taraweeh prayers in a different mosque every day,” said Omar Nehad, a displaced Palestinian in Rafah.

“Now there are no mosques left. They have all been destroyed.”

Updated: March 10, 2024, 5:56 PM