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regular-article-logo Thursday, 13 June 2024

War shatters Haj dream for Khan Younis couple

“We are living inside a prison. Without the Rafah border, there is no way in and no way out,” said Mahmoud Jarghoun, 67, referring to the crossing to Egypt that has been shut since Israel seized it in May during its Gaza offensive

Reuters Khan Younis, Gaza Strip Published 11.06.24, 06:51 AM
Representational image

Representational image File image

Palestinian couple Mahmoud and Fatima Jarghoun sold their jewellery so they could perform the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca — a journey they have been yearning to make for years. But with no way out of the Gaza Strip, their dream has been dashed.

“We are living inside a prison. Without the Rafah border, there is no way in and no way out,” said Mahmoud Jarghoun, 67, referring to the crossing to Egypt that has been shut since Israel seized it in May during its Gaza offensive.

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Jarghoun said the deep disappointment of being unable to make the pilgrimage had compounded the pain inflicted by the war, speaking at his shattered home in Khan Younis, where the floor was strewn with rubble and masonry.

“Unfortunately, we lost our house,” he said, estimating repair costs at $20,000. “Then came the closure of the border and we can’t go to Haj, we can’t go to it. It was two blows at once,” he said.

“The pain of the war, the pain of the destruction, the pain of the siege and the pain of not being able to go to Haj.”

The Haj is one of the five basic obligations of a Muslim and every believer who has the means should perform the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime. It begins on Friday.

Palestinians typically wait years for their turn after registering their names with the Palestinian authorities. Jarghoun said they had been waiting almost 18 years.

He said they had “sold everything in our possession so that we can perform this duty. We are at the end of our lifetime. Unfortunately, the border was closed, closing with it all our hopes to perform this duty”.

Fatima Jarghoun, 65, said the couple had been very happy when their names were approved for the Haj. But “at the end, all our dreams were gone. We were very, very upset”, she said. Israel has besieged and laid waste to much of the Gaza Strip since launching an offensive in retaliation for the October 7 Hamas-led attack that killed some 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s offensive has killed more than 37,000 people in Gaza, according to the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry.

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Houthi missiles struck two ships in the Gulf of Aden, authorities said on Sunday. One anti-ship cruise missile hit the Antigua- and Barbuda-flagged cargo ship Norderney forward station late on Saturday, starting a fire that those on board put out, the US military’s Central Command said.

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