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 day-long fast each evening amid colourful 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 127 yesterday from the five-day offensive.
Residents in Gaza 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.
In nearby Jabalya, 77-year-old Ibrahim Mahmoud Daoud looked on grimly as several young men from the neighbourhood helped him sift through the rubble of his two-story home, levelled early Friday by a bomb dropped from an Israeli warplane. A father to eight -- seven married daughters and an unmarried son -- Daoud sounded defiant as he considered the latest violent round in the long-running struggle between Israel and Hamas.
It was not clear why the home was targeted. Israel says it targets buildings used by Hamas for military purposes.
Some quietly criticise Hamas. Abu Ali, a driver for his family business who identified himself only by his first names to avoid Hamas retribution, insisted that at least in his immediate neighbourhood, the movement was widely reviled.
“Everybody here hates Hamas,” he said. “But they're too afraid to say so publicly. Our food comes from Israel but what we give them in return is rockets -- rockets that don't even make little holes in the ground.”