Palestinians prepare for Ramadan amid Gaza conflict

Palestinians are bracing for Ramadan under the somber realities of increased Israeli security and the ongoing conflict in Gaza, casting a shadow over the typically festive Muslim holy month. Efforts to secure a ceasefire remain at a standstill, while the threat of war and scarcity looms large.

In Jerusalem’s Old City, thousands of police officers have been stationed to oversee the influx of worshippers expected at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound daily, one of Islam’s most sacred sites. This area, revered as the most sacred by Jews who refer to it as the Temple Mount, has historically been a focal point of conflict and triggered the last war in 2021 between Israel and Hamas, the group governing Gaza.

The current conflict, now in its sixth month, has significantly eclipsed the 10-day battle that began on Oct. 7, with Hamas’s incursion into Israel resulting in approximately 1,200 deaths, according to Israeli counts.

Global concern intensifies as Israel’s ongoing operations in Gaza heighten the risk of famine, potentially increasing a death toll already surpassing 31,000.

In a Ramadan address, President Joe Biden expressed the United States’ commitment to pushing for humanitarian aid to Gaza, a ceasefire, and lasting regional stability. Biden emphasized the collective consciousness of the Palestinian people’s plight during Ramadan.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified that access to Al Aqsa Mosque would remain consistent with the previous year, countering earlier confusion caused by Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s comments on worshipper restrictions. Azzam Al-Khatib, director general of the Jerusalem Waqf, highlighted the importance of safeguarding Muslim presence at the mosque.

The commencement of Ramadan is determined by lunar observation, with Palestinians beginning on Monday and some Arab and Muslim nations starting on Tuesday. This year, traditional decorations in Jerusalem’s Old City have been omitted, reflecting a broader sense of mourning throughout the occupied West Bank, where the Gaza conflict has resulted in approximately 400 Palestinian fatalities.

Israeli police have implemented additional measures to ensure a peaceful Ramadan, including actions against the dissemination of provocative content on social media, leading to 20 arrests for suspected incitement to terrorism.

As Ramadan prayers proceed on the Temple Mount, Israeli authorities emphasize their commitment to maintaining security and safety, amid widespread Muslim resentment towards Israel’s control over Al Aqsa. Last month, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urged Palestinians to gather at the mosque for the start of Ramadan.