Impoverished Gazans struggle to celebrate Eid al-Adha
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Last Updated: Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 12:47
Gaza City: It is one of the biggest holidays in the Muslim calendar, but for Palestinians in the impoverished Gaza Strip, the Eid al-Adha festival is a time for tough choices.

Ibtisaam, 40, knew she could not afford the new clothes and syrupy sweets that families buy for the four-day holiday, which began on Tuesday.

So she decided to sell some of her gold wedding jewellery so she could buy her seven children a little holiday cheer -- without telling her unemployed husband, Mohammed. "I promised my children that this year I would buy them Eid clothes like everybody else gets. It's their right to celebrate like other people," she said.

Ibtisaam, who declined to give her family name, struggled to hold back tears as she described the dire economic straits in which her family finds itself.

"My husband used to work in construction and the income was excellent, but there's no work for him now because the building has all stopped, and we've spent all the money we saved," she said.

Construction virtually ground to a halt after Israel imposed a blockade on the territory in June 2006 following the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a dawn cross-border raid by Gaza-based militants.

The restrictions were further tightened a year later, when Hamas seized power in the coastal enclave, ousting its moderate rivals Fatah.

The impact on Gaza, which was already mired in poverty, has been devastating. Most residents are now dependent on international aid, said Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

"Eighty per cent of the population are reliant on the humanitarian aid that UNRWA provides. We offer more than 800,000 Palestinians regular assistance," he said.

The blockade has been eased in recent months, after an uproar over a bloody Israeli raid on a flotilla of aid ships headed for Gaza that left nine Turkish activists dead.

But unemployment in the enclave remains around 50 per cent, and Abu Hasna said construction work was still on hold.

"It's the most important economic sector and it remains virtually paralysed," he said.

In the crowded alleys of Gaza City's market, shoppers make their way past stalls, assaulted by the cries of merchants eager to make a sale.

One woman, who gave her name only as Mona, said she was doing her best to enjoy the holiday despite all the troubles and frustrations of life in Gaza.


First Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 12:47

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