GAZA CITY, Gaza — It's the holy month of Ramadan, when people throughout the Muslim world meet with friends and family, buy presents for loved ones and break a daylong fast each evening amid colorful street scenes.
But not in Gaza City, one of the world's most densely populated cities. A ceaseless Israeli bombing campaign, with airstrikes every five minutes, has turned the frenetic hub of the Gaza Strip into a virtual ghost town, emptying streets, closing shops and keeping hundreds of thousands of people close to home where they feel safest from the bombs.
In Israel, hundreds of rockets fired by Gaza militants also send civilians running into bomb shelters and staying close to home. However, there have been no fatalities there, while the death toll in Gaza topped 150 on Saturday from the five-day offensive.
In Gaza, residents remain torn between fear for their safety and sadness over the loss of a normal Ramadan, usually a time of deep spirituality leavened by great joy and celebration.
"The situation is very bad and not usual at all," homemaker Umm Al-Abed said. "People in the month of Ramadan used to visit each other and go to buy things that are only sold during Ramadan. But now because of the atmosphere of war, people are afraid to go out and there are no salaries for anyone."