In Ramadan message, Biden says suffering of Palestinian people is ‘front of mind’

Saudi king calls for end of ‘heinous crimes’ in Gaza, urges entry of aid; Australian PM acknowledges holiday marred by tragedy of war; Canada’s Trudeau backs humanitarian ceasefire

Members of the Muslim community gather for the first Taraweeh prayer of Ramadan in Times Square, New York City, on March 10, 2024. (Adam Gray / AFP)
Members of the Muslim community gather for the first Taraweeh prayer of Ramadan in Times Square, New York City, on March 10, 2024. (Adam Gray / AFP)

World leaders issued greetings for the start of Ramadan on Sunday, with US President Joe Biden declaring that his thoughts were with suffering Palestinians in Gaza, as Muslims gathered around the globe for the fasting month.

Biden, who is working to establish a truce in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, said that “the suffering of the Palestinian people will be front of mind for many” during Ramadan. “It is front of mind for me,” he added.

“The sacred month is a time for reflection and renewal. This year, it comes at a moment of immense pain. The war in Gaza has inflicted terrible suffering on the Palestinian people,” said the president. “Nearly two million Palestinians have been displaced by the war; many are in urgent need of food, water, medicine, and shelter.”

The US, he said, will continue to “lead international efforts to get more humanitarian assistance into Gaza” and “continue working nonstop to establish an immediate and sustained ceasefire for at least six weeks as part of a deal that releases hostages.”

Washington will also “continue building toward a long-term future of stability, security, and peace” that includes “a two-state solution to ensure Palestinians and Israelis share equal measures of freedom, dignity, security, and prosperity.”

“That is the only path toward an enduring peace,” he asserted.

Muslims walk next to the Dome of Rock Mosque at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, Sunday, March 10, 2024. (AP/Mahmoud Illean)

The sacred Ramadan month, which sees those observing abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset, marks a period of religious reflection, family get-togethers and giving across the Muslim world. Religious authorities in Saudi Arabia saw the crescent moon Sunday night, meaning Monday is the first day of the fast in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as well as much of the rest of the Muslim world, though others, like Jordan, will begin the holy month Tuesday.

This year’s holiday is taking place amid war in the Gaza Strip, which erupted after Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians. Vowing to topple the Hamas regime and release the hostages, Israel launched an air and ground offensive, in which it says it is targeting all areas in Gaza where the terror group operates.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says that more than 30,000 people in the Strip have been killed since fighting began, though these figures cannot be independently verified and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed some 13,000 Hamas and other gunmen in Gaza, in addition to 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on and soon after October 7.

The war has led to widespread hunger and mass displacement within the Strip, drawing anger across the Muslim world and fears among Israeli officials of a violent escalation in the region during the fasting month.

Speaking as custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman gave thanks on Sunday for the “blessings bestowed upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” but noted the war in besieged Gaza would cast a shadow over the holy month of fasting and prayer.

“As we witness the arrival of Ramadan this year, our hearts are heavy with sorrow for the ongoing suffering of our Palestinian brothers facing relentless aggression,” he said.

“We call upon the international community to uphold its responsibilities to put an end to these heinous crimes and ensure the establishment of safe humanitarian and relief corridors.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah posted in X, “O God, ease the suffering of our brothers in Gaza and remove the injustice they face.”

Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati wrote on X: “I renew my call to God Almighty to protect our homeland and keep it away from dangers, evils, and wars, and for all of our efforts to be united to overcome this difficult stage that we are going through.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged in a statement that “for many Australians, this Ramadan will be distinct from others.”

“I acknowledge and understand the deep distress many Muslims in Australia are experiencing witnessing the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. This Ramadan, as you gather in homes and Mosques around our country, I hope you will be strengthened by the expression of your faith and bonds of your community,” he wrote.

Addressing his country’s Muslim community, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recognized that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was “weighing heavy on their celebrations.”

“I’m reaffirming Canada’s call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, and for aid to reach civilians in need — without delay,” he wrote on X.

“Unfortunately, this year’s Ramadan in Ukraine is overshadowed by ongoing war and suffering,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on X.

“May this holy month bring us closer to achieving a fair and just peace. Not only for Ukraine, but also for all nations currently suffering from war. Humanity is capable of achieving a level of unity that will ensure justice and protect life from wars,” he said.

In a message to Egyptians abroad, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said in a written statement: “It’s a great pleasure to send you my sincere wishes on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, supplicating to God’s Almighty to accept our fasting and our good deeds in this month and to protect Egypt and the Egyptians.”

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