Hopes for ceasefire in Gaza wane as Ramadan begins

With Ramadan approaching, a ceasefire in Gaza appears unlikely. Still, millions of Muslims currently taking shelter in Rafah are making what preparations they can for the holy holiday. Meanwhile, thousands of police are present in the Old City of Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of worshippers are expected every day at the Al Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The appearance of the crescent moon determines the first day of Ramadan, meaning the fasting period will begin on either 10 or 11 March this year. Muslims across the world will fast between sunrise and sunset for approximately 30 days, depending on the cycle of the moon.

As the war rages on in Gaza, Palestinian Muslims are finding ways to continue prayer among the rubble after more than 1,000 mosques have been destroyed since 7 October. Some tents display lanterns in the entry as a sign of the holiday.

However, hopes of a 40-day ceasefire coinciding with Ramadan are fading. While Egyptian sources have reported that mediators will meet a Hamas delegation on Sunday to try and reach an agreement with Israel, there is little confidence that action will be taken.

Palestinian children play with traditional lanterns in Rafah © PHOTO SAID KHATIB / AFP
Palestinian children play with traditional lanterns in Rafah © PHOTO SAID KHATIB / AFP

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden has voiced his concern over Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's tactics. "He has the right to defend Israel, the right to continue attacking Hamas. But he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives lost as a result of his actions," he said to MSNBC. "In my opinion, he is doing Israel more harm than good."

In Jerusalem, Israeli officers have been stationed at every gate of the Al Aqsa mosque, controlling the stream of worshippers who enter. Last month, Israel's minister of security, Itamar Ben Gvir, said he wanted to restrict the number of worshippers, but Netanyahu recently confirmed a similar amount would be admitted as last year.

With more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents seeking refuge in the Rafah region, the situation has continued to deteriorate. The growing risk of famine threatens to increase the death toll, which has exceeded 31,000.



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