Palestinian couple holds somber wedding in tent city for Gazans who fled war

A Palestinian couple is married in one of the tent cities erected near the Egyptian border due to the war, on January 19, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)
A Palestinian couple is married in one of the tent cities erected near the Egyptian border due to the war, on January 19, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Palestinian groom Mohammed al-Ghandour wanted to give his bride a beautiful wedding, but after war began in Gaza, they had to flee their homes and the couple finally got married this week in the tent city where they now live.

Ghandour led his wife Shahad by the hand towards the tent decorated with some colored lights and a mirror with a gold-colored frame as a few relatives escorted them, clapping in time.

Inside the tent, Shahad, wearing a white dress and veil with traditional red embroidery, lifted her hand and Ghandour put a ring on it.

“I wanted a party. I wanted a celebration, a wedding. I wanted to invite my friends, my relatives and my cousins, like anyone would,” said Ghandour.

The couple are from Gaza City in the north of the tiny enclave where some of the worst of Israel’s heavy bombardment and the fighting between it and Hamas have taken place since the war began on October 7.

The homes of both Ghandour’s family and Shahad’s family were destroyed in Israeli airstrikes, they said, and they lost cousins and other family members in the bombardment.

“My happiness is maybe at 3 percent but will get myself ready for my wife. I want to make her happy,” said Ghandour.

The war began when Hamas fighters rampaged into Israel, killing more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking 240 hostages. Israel’s bombardment and assault into Gaza have killed more than 24,760 people according to the Hamas-run health authorities there, who don’t differentiate between civilians and combatants and include in their figures Palestinians killed by errant Hamas fire.

Instead of the big party that Ghandour had wanted, he and Shahad had a small group of relatives who, like them, had managed to leave Gaza City and flee to Rafah, at the far southern end of the strip next to Egypt.

Shahad’s mother led a small group of women ululating in celebration of the marriage and somebody had saved batteries for a small portable music player.

For a wedding feast in an enclave that the UN warns is heading towards famine, the couple had only a few snacks in plastic packages, laid out carefully for them in the tent.

Both families had already spent lots of money on the wedding before the war began. Shahad had spent more than $2,000 on clothes, they said.

“My dream was to give Shahad the best wedding, the most beautiful in the world,” said her mother, Umm Yahia Khalifa.

“We prepared her wedding things and she was happy. But it is all gone in the shelling. Every time she remembers she starts to cry,” she said.

As the small wedding party began to clap and dance, people around them went about their daily chores among the lines of tents stretched across the sand, seeking food or hanging laundry.

A small girl in a pink and white dress smiled broadly as the clapping began and joined a group of other children dancing as the sun set behind the high border fence topped with barbed wire.

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