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Millions Commence Hajj Amid Israel’s Ongoing Offensive in Gaza

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The annual Hajj pilgrimage has commenced in Mecca, where over 1.5 million Muslim pilgrims have gathered to partake in the religious rituals. This year’s pilgrimage is taking place against the backdrop of Israel’s sustained aggression against the Gaza Strip, prompting many worshippers to express sorrow as the conflict in Gaza enters its eighth month.

The ongoing conflict and the closure of the Rafah crossing have prevented Palestinians in Gaza from embarking on the Hajj pilgrimage. As a result, many individuals, like Zahra Benizahra from Morocco, lament the inability of their brothers to participate in the Hajj due to the war and the crossing’s closure. Additionally, the closure has barred Palestinians from leaving the region, depriving them of the opportunity to undertake the pilgrimage.

Despite these challenges, Saudi Arabia has extended an invitation to 1,000 additional pilgrims from families affected by the conflict in Gaza. Furthermore, 4,200 individuals from the occupied West Bank have been able to partake in the pilgrimage this year. Saudi Arabian King Salman’s initiative to include affected individuals reflects efforts to promote inclusivity amid the ongoing conflicts in the region.

This year’s Hajj has witnessed a significant development in the form of Syrian pilgrims being able to travel to Mecca directly from Damascus after over a decade. This positive development underscores the efforts to foster unity and inclusivity among Muslim pilgrims, despite prevailing conflicts and challenges.

Saudi Arabian authorities anticipate the attendance of over two million pilgrims at this year’s Hajj. The pilgrimage entails a series of rituals in Mecca and its environs that span several days, with attendees eagerly awaiting the religious significance of the upcoming ceremonies, including prayers, contemplation, and incantations in key locations such as the valley of Arafat.

For the pilgrims, the Hajj represents a deeply moving spiritual experience, believed to cleanse sins and bring individuals closer to God, while also serving as a unifying force for the global Muslim community. Furthermore, the pilgrimage serves as an occasion for attendees to pray for peace in conflict-affected regions such as Yemen and Sudan, emphasizing the Hajj’s broader significance beyond religious observance.

The pilgrimage takes place during the sweltering Saudi summer, posing health challenges for the attendees. With temperatures reaching an average high of 44 degrees Celsius, the Saudi Ministry of Health has emphasized the importance of precautionary measures to mitigate heat-related illnesses.

Hence, the commencement of this year’s Hajj amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza and other strife-torn regions underscores the resilience and unity of the global Muslim community as individuals gather to partake in this significant religious event.

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