A Palestinian man, wrapped in his national flag, inspects the rubble of destroyed buildings and houses in the Shejaiya residential district of Gaza City, on July 28, 2014, on the beginning of the Muslim Eid festival
A Palestinian man, wrapped in his national flag, inspects the rubble of destroyed buildings and houses in the Shejaiya residential district of Gaza City, on July 28, 2014, on the beginning of the Muslim Eid festival © Mahmud Hams - AFP
A Palestinian man, wrapped in his national flag, inspects the rubble of destroyed buildings and houses in the Shejaiya residential district of Gaza City, on July 28, 2014, on the beginning of the Muslim Eid festival
John Davison, AFP
Last updated: July 29, 2014

Muslims mark sombre Eid in bloodied Gaza

The end of a month of fasting was supposed to be a time to celebrate for Abeer Shamali. But instead, she spent the Muslim Eid feast at the grave of her teenage son.

Fellow mourners looked on glumly Monday as Abeer caressed the earth under which her dead son lay, and placed pink and white hydrangeas upon the mound of sandy soil where Thaer, 16, was buried four days ago.

The boy was killed in Israeli shelling of Shejaiya in eastern Gaza, one of the areas worst-hit by a bloody military operation that has cost more than 1,000 Palestinian lives.

"Ramadan is supposed to be a month of holiness, a month of the Koran, not a month of battles," Abeer said with tears in her eyes, referring to the fasting month.

"How do I feel?" she told an AFP correspondent.

"I feel like any woman who has to bury her son on Eid. What am I supposed to do?"

Thaer's father Ahed, and two of the family's eight other children, looked drained from grief and from a three-week war for which there seems no end in sight.

"He was just a kid -- he'd finished school and had started working as an apprentice barber," Thaer's father Ahed Shamali said.

"This is the Eid of the martyrs."

Abeer butted in, more dramatically: "This is the Eid of blood!"

The Israeli shelling killed Thaer on Thursday as he was on his way home in Shejaiya, where entire neighbourhoods have been flattened.

The family home was destroyed in separate shelling but was empty at the time, Ahed said. They are staying with relatives while they look for more permanent shelter.

In the centre of Gaza City, a few hundred men, women and children took part in early morning prayers at Al-Omari mosque to mark the Eid al-Fitr festival which ends Ramadan.

They bowed, knelt and whispered solemnly in worship, then filed out and swiftly dispersed.

No one lingered, for fear of air strikes that have been slamming into the narrow coastal territory almost incessantly since July 8.

- 'No Eid for us' -

The mood was sombre for Eid, when families normally gather in large numbers to celebrate, eat and rejoice.

Instead of invading relatives' houses to feast, some went straight home. Many others, like the Shamali family, walked or drove to cemeteries to pay their respects to those killed.

"After the destruction and war we've seen here, there's no Eid for us now," said 44-year-old Issa. "We pray, honour our dead, and then go home."

And as night fell, Israel resumed fresh air strikes and shelling, which rained down on the north and east of Gaza, lighting up the unusually cloudy sky.

Israel's army said late Monday it would press ahead full steam with its campaign, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel "must be ready for a lengthy campaign."

Gazans huddled in their homes and mostly forgot about Eid.

Raghda al-Mudaqqa, 30, had left her home in the north of Gaza after her neighbourhood was hit by shelling and headed for Gaza City to stay with relatives over Eid.

"I never thought there would be an Eid like this, with us in the middle of a war. My children are crying, they want new clothes to wear for the holiday, but I can't get home to fetch them."

Shells hit nearby, even in Gaza City, frightening the children.

"This is the worst Eid of our lives, we're scared, worried and the sound of bombs frightens us all."

Naeem Abu Sultan, 11, declared there was "no Eid in Gaza."

"We haven't even left the house for fear of shelling. I haven't seen my friends, I want to play with them."

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