Ramadan commences in Gaza with no ceasefire agreement in sight

Videos and images circulating on social media platforms show Palestinians gathering for Iftar amidst rubble in the Gaza strip for the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinians were also documented gathering around Al Farooq mosque in Rafah, south of the Gaza strip, to perform the Ramadan Taraweeh prayers ahead of the first day of the holy month.

Since October 7, Gazans have had scarce access to food and clean water as Israel’s siege on the strip continues, with minimal aid allowed in.

Israeli jets kept pounding the Gaza strip into the early hours of this morning, according to a report by Al Jazeera. Bombs targeted residential homes in both Rafah and Gaza city, with the Zeitoun neighborhood of the latter sustaining the most damage. 

No ceasefire before Ramadan

Rafah is the last designated safezone that Israel has repeatedly told Palestinians to flee to after the onset of the war on Gaza. Today, it is a refuge for more than one million Palestinians densely crammed together into the city. Families living there suffer from severe shortages of food, water, medicine, and shelter, with the majority residing in makeshift tents.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the occupation’s forces would soon launch a ground campaign in the area.

The announcement triggered international alarm about further exasperating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza after Israel launched a months-long genocidal campaign on Palestinians in the strip, coupled with a full siege that has led to widespread malnutrition, famine, and disease.

The US, Israel’s strongest ally who has so far refused to call for a ceasefire, warned against the ground operation. President Biden designated the ground operation as crossing a “red line.”

Just last week, Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz visited Washington and spoke with US officials. Gantz stated that if a temporary ceasefire and hostage release deal was not struck by Ramadan, then Israel would launch the next phase of the war with a ground operation in Rafah.

Ahead of the start of the holy month of Ramadan, Israeli PM Netanyahu vowed in an interview with Politico and German media outlet Bild that he would cross Biden’s “red line” and embark on a ground operation in Rafah regardless of whether a truce agreement is struck or not.

On the evening of March 10, the Biden administration announced that it is not anticipating Israeli forces to imminently expand their military operations in Rafah, as per two US officials’ comments to CNN.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh also gave a speech on Sunday evening where he blamed Israel for stalling ceasefire talks and for repeatedly rejecting Hamas’ demand to end the war on Gaza, withdraw the Israeli military from the strip, and allow for the safe return of all citizens who have been internally displaced.

Haniyeh stated that Hamas is ready to proceed with negotiations and express flexibility on the issue of prisoner exchange on the condition that Israel agrees to end the war on Gaza. Haniyeh also expressed the group’s flexibility with regards to the issue of the governance of Gaza after the end of the aggression, stating that Hamas is ready to form a unity government with rival Fatah movement.

He added that steps towards the goal could possibly include electing a Palestinian National Council and forming an interim national consensus government with “specific tasks”, as per a report by Reuters.