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Amid violence and hunger, Palestinians in Gaza are determined to mark Ramadan

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From his crowded makeshift tent, made of donated plastic sheeting, Fahed Abu El Khair told CBS News that this was not the life he ever dreamt for his family. 

Once comfortably middle class, they now live in a crowded encampment set up in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, just feet away from the towering lights of the Egyptian border. 

“I have six people in my family,” Abu El Khair says. “My wife and children … and how we are living is not a life.” 

Before the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, the father of four was one of the few Palestinians from Gaza able to secure a rare permit to work inside Israel. But since Israel launched its retaliatory assault, Abu El Khair has had to move his family four times just to survive. 

“All we have now is a few cups, a plate and a pot to cook with,” he said. “It’s hardly enough for anyone to live with, let alone be able to feed our children.” 

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Fahed Abu El Khair and his son.

CBS Mornings


In the days immediately following Hamas’ October 7th attacks, Israel effectively sealed the Gaza Strip by cutting off most food, water and medicine.

Nearly six months later, international aid agencies say over 1 million people — half of Gaza’s population — are now in the midst of a famine. In March, at least twenty-seven children reportedly starved to death in the north of the besieged Palestinian territory where, according to United Nations figures, as many as a quarter of all children under 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition.

In the south, where the Abu El Khair family are sheltering, the other half of Gaza’s population will likely experience famine by the end of spring in what the U.N. calls “a reasonable worst-case scenario.”

Despite the immense hardships, the Abu El Khair family has not lost their faith. Ramadan and fasting is special to them, and so before they begin their day of abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset, they gather for a pre-dawn meal. All they have to eat are a few pieces of bread and a sweet sesame paste — a meal enough for one person, but not a family. 

As he fasts, Abu El Khair can’t rest. He has to spend his day searching for food for his family in one of the few remaining markets in Gaza. But as he walks from stall to stall, he can barely afford anything. Costs have skyrocketed across southern Gaza. Even a small bunch of green onions had to be haggled over. 

Before the war, an estimated 500 trucks entered Gaza everyday carrying food and other goods as well as international aid. Nearly six months into Israel’s ongoing assault, that number has dropped by 80 percent, according to aid groups. The Israeli military says its rejection of some shipments and its lengthy checks on aid trucks are to prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons and supplies.


Muslims observe Ramadan amid tension of Israel-Hamas war

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The Abu El Khair family has had to find other ways to survive. Fahima, Abu El Khair’s wife, built a wood-fired oven inside their tent to try and earn extra money by selling bread, but that money doesn’t go far. 

“Even if I work all day, all I’m able to afford is a few tomatoes or an eggplant,” she said. Even with her daughter helping, it’s a struggle. 

“We can only bake bread over an open fire,” Fahima said. “But I feel like our entire life is in flames.” 

Breaking their fast wasn’t a simple process, either. Cooking a meal that is traditionally served at sunset was made difficult by having to prepare it on the floor of a tent. More than an hour after the sun had gone down, the meal was finally ready. 

“We live in a tent set up on the sand. We eat food that, as you can see, we can barely cook,” Abu El Khair said. “We live only with God’s mercy.” 

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