Palestinians are preparing to mark the Islamic holy month of Ramadan which falls on Thursday amid hopes for restoring peace in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In Gaza, local residents are decorating their houses, streets, and shops with coloured lights and lanterns to celebrate the upcoming holy month.
Rana Ahmed, a 28-year-old mother of three in Gaza, spent many days buying food, decorations, as well as sweets ahead of Ramadan in a bid to create a joyful atmosphere for her family.
“For many years, we were deprived of such festive atmospheres due to the bitter reality under the long-term conflict between Israel and the Palestinian factions as well as economic deterioration” in the besieged Palestinian enclave, she said.
Because of poverty, she recalled, “I could not have such preparations as my husband was unemployed and could not keep us afloat.”
She said their economic conditions improved after her husband landed a job in Israel, allowing her to save money for this Ramadan.
She believes that the current peace and political understanding between the Gaza-run Hamas and Israel have made it possible for local families to mark Ramadan according to their traditions.
Mohammed Jarada, a vendor of home decor accessories in the al-Zawiya market in Gaza, told Xinhua that he was happy as he had sold most of his goods days before Ramadan.
“In the past, we struggled to clear the backlog of goods in our warehouses” even on the eve of the holiday due to deteriorating economic conditions in Gaza, but the market is crowded this year, Jarada noted.
Both Jarada and Ahmed hoped that all military hostilities between Gaza and Israel will cease so that local residents can live in peace and safety.
During Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims generally observe a strict daily fast from dawn to sunset and conduct rituals including the sacrifice of an animal and charities to the poor.
However, over the past few months, regular Israeli raids in the West Bank have disrupted Palestinians’ daily life, and the loss of lives from these conflicts has dismayed many Palestinians before the Ramadan celebrations.
Wael al-Saady, a Ramallah-based man in his 40s, told Xinhua that he did not buy any Ramadan decorations for the first time in his life and that he only bought food.
“Unfortunately, grief prevails in our area as dozens of families lost their relatives, who were killed or arrested by the Israeli forces,” the father-of-four said, adding they could barely celebrate the holy month but stand in solidarity with the families of the victims.
Salim Refaei, a vendor from Ramallah, blamed the Israeli raids for slack markets during Ramadan in recent years. “We urgently need to get our normal life back and stop military tensions,” he said.
A flaring tension between Israel and the Palestinians since January has led to the killing of 89 Palestinians and 14 Israelis, according to official Palestinian and Israeli statistics.
The Palestinian National Authority and Israel reaffirmed their commitment on Sunday to advancing security, stability and peace for both Palestinians and Israelis.
According to a communique released after a meeting between officials from the two sides, Egypt, Jordan and the United States in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, the parties recognized the necessity of de-escalation on the ground, the prevention of further violence, as well as of pursuing confidence-building measures and addressing outstanding issues through direct dialogue.