Muslim holiday brings little joy to Gazans

Sun Dec 7, 2008 7:57am EST
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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Smuggled through tunnels from Egypt, sheep were not selling well in a Gaza market on the eve of a Muslim holiday in which the animals are slaughtered and their meat is donated to the poor.

"People here are just watching one another and nobody is buying," complained sheep merchant Omar Fuji. "The prices are higher because we had to pay a $100 fee to the tunneller on every sheep that came through."

Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice celebrated by Muslims worldwide this week, is shaping up to be a miserable holiday for many of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's blockade of the borders of the Hamas-controlled territory and a surge in violence along the frontier have deepened economic hardship in the impoverished enclave.

"Abu Ammar (the late Yasser Arafat) promised to make Gaza the new Singapore," one market-goer said.

"Instead, it has become Tora Bora," he said, referring to the al Qaeda stronghold in eastern Afghanistan attacked by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

Political divisions between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction have added to a sense of helplessness among Gazans.

Palestinian pilgrims bound for Mecca for the haj pilgrimage were prevented from leaving the Gaza Strip via Egypt. Hamas and Fatah blamed each other for the hold-up.   Continued...